Witch in the Wind (Bandit Creek Books) Online

Chapter One

“Thank you for calling me,” Avalon Gwynn said. The words sounded distorted, forced through lips that were suddenly stiff and numb. “I’ll leave right away.” Gone? How could they be gone?

After returning the receiver to its cradle, she didn’t have the strength to lift her hand. She left it resting where it was as she watched the steam float up from the mug of tea she’d laid beside the phone when it rang. Her mind was empty. A sudden vacuum of thought, memory and emotion.

She had to move. She had to—

She had to get a grip. She had to go home. Back to Bandit Creek, Montana.

She tightened her hold on the receiver and picked it up. Fifteen minutes later she’d arranged a leave from work and a plant-sitter for her apartment. Ten more to pack her bag. Six and a half hours later, she was pulling back onto the I-90 after having refilled her gas tank in Spokane.

Even with the May sun shining through her windshield, her hands were frozen onto the steering wheel. Her head ached and there was a persistent hum in her ears. Her parents were dead. She still wanted to believe it was some sort of sick joke. Her mind was too paralyzed with grief to absorb most of what the sheriff had said. Her brain had shut down by the time she’d hung up. Thinking about it now, she realized Sheriff Morgan had been vague about the details of her parents’ death.

Crap. It must have been an accident. They’d have been together in that beat-up old wagon her father drove. A single sob pushed up from the knot in her chest and escaped, even as she clamped her lips tight.

There had been tension in her father’s voice the last couple of times she’d called. He’d insisted everything was fine. She smacked the wheel hard with her hand. Why did I let it go? A static spark flashed across her fingertips startling her. Damn dry mountain air, she thought, although she couldn’t recall that ever happening before when she was home.

She swept silent tears off her cheeks and blinked hard so she wouldn’t miss the highway exit. The mid afternoon sun was sliding towards the horizon when the sign indicating Bandit Creek 1 Mile slid past the passenger side window. Her stomach clenched, the caustic brew of confusion, grief and old resentment, bubbling up into the back of her throat.

A mental map of Bandit Creek floated up from her memory. If she jogged over to Adam Street, she could take that up to Spruce and avoid most of Main Street with its busy town hall, the shops and all the other mainstays of a small Montana town.

She tightened her grip on the wheel until her knuckles hurt. For the first time since she was a small child, she wished she could use magic to get to her parents’ old house on Gwynn Lane. Despite the town gossip, she and her parents weren’t magic. Wicca was a religion, not woo-woo supernatural powers.

As she drove past the quaint little bungalows along Adam Street, she felt a familiar tension edge into her grief. Growing up in a backwater town like Bandit Creek would be hard on anyone, but for an outsider like her, it was torture. She could still hear Olivia Turley chanting “Bitchy, Witchy, Bitchy, Witchy” after she’d caught a glimpse of Avy’s birthmark when they were kids. Why she had the freakish bad luck for it to be shaped like a crescent moon was beyond her. The first time she was taunted, she ran home in tears. The next time Olivia bullied her, Avy remembered with satisfaction, she’d punched the girl in her perky, turned up nose. After that, no one called her names, at least not to her face. She had no regrets about getting herself the hell out of Bandit Creek.

She unclenched her fingers from the steering wheel and rolled her neck to release the tension held there. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been back. Her parents came to Seattle to celebrate the eight sabbats with her and, for the few months in between, they usually thought up some other reason to visit her in the city. She’d used that as an excuse to avoid Bandit Creek herself.

The bump as she drove over the bridge towards Lost Lake Road broke her from her memories. Her childhood home, the Old Gwynn Place as the locals called it, was isolated from the main town, the