Guys! Look at this book! I am so intrigued. I haven’t read Abbi Glines in FOREVER. I mean, I think my last book of hers was Fallen too Far, or maybe one of the other books from that series, I don’t even know. It’s seriously been for-freaking-ever. But OMG! THIS. Charmed Souls sounds so so so good. And I love the first chapter reveal we have below. It’s PNR (paranormal romance – one of my fav genres)! The first in a series. And I can’t wait to read it.
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They say blood is thicker than water, but I was never proud of mine. A female born into the Kamlock bloodline was destined to possess three things they couldn’t change—a crazy as hell mother, an unfair amount of beauty, and a Charmed soul that was as black as night.
All a Kamlock woman ever desired in life was to use her beauty to destroy wealthy men and take their riches. A century had passed since a generation of Kamlock sisters had been anything other than gold diggers.
All I ever wanted was to be free of them. I knew I couldn’t change my cursed birth, but I could change its legacy. I had a job, I had friends, and I was slowly gaining my independence.
Until Rathe Scott crashed into my life and tore it apart.
He made me feel what I had spent my entire life never wanting to feel. He brought out a darkness I’d not known was inside me. And just when I thought I was becoming everything I had sworn I would never become…
He was gone.
The overpowering scent of rosemary at table seven couldn’t be coming from the food they’d ordered. I would have noticed Jacque’s heavy-handed seasoning when I delivered their plates. The garlic and lemon in their choice of entrée was expected but not the Rosemary that was wafting from them. It wasn’t that I didn’t like rosemary. I enjoyed it just fine, but the odd strength of the herb’s scent was intriguing me. Did the couple take a bath in the herb when I wasn’t looking? That idea made me grin.
I had been working at Grandezzas for three years. It wasn’t just a job. This place was like family. I never dreaded coming to work. Instead, I looked forward to the escape from my house and those who lived there. Customers like these kept me entertained. Underneath the strands of lights that covered the ceiling, there was a peaceful feel to this place. The ambiance was one of the two reasons for its popularity. The most important reason was the food. Everything on the menu was delicious.
“Can you take my last table? I need to go unlock my apartment for the new roommate.” Heath Brown and his twin sister, Margo, had been my best friends, or the closest thing I had to best friends, since we were seven years old. I glanced at Heath’s table of two older men and figured they’d be easy enough.
“Sure,” I replied. “I didn’t know y’all had found a roommate to replace the psycho.”
The psycho was how I described his ex-girlfriend. Because she deserved the title. She was legit insane. The things she’d done to Margo while living with them were ridiculous. Coming from someone who had grown up with the three insane females I’d been forced to endure, that was saying a lot.
He smirked but had stopped correcting me when I labeled her as such. He knew she was crazy. “I met him through a mutual friend. I don’t have time to explain now. You can drill me for details later. I gotta go.”
Heath all but ran toward the kitchen to ditch his black signature Grandezzas apron. I turned to go check on my new additions when the female rosemary lover from table seven waved a hand at me. Her nails were long and black with glitter on the tips. I’d noticed them earlier, but now that she was wiggling them in the air at me, I admired how they sparkled as the lights danced off the glitter.
I presented them both with my bright smile. As I approached the table, the scent got stronger. “We need to leave.” Her words were rushed and dramatic. I was even more curious now. Did she suddenly need to go tend her herb garden… or roll around in it, perhaps?
“Did y’all enjoy your meal?” I asked, purposely stalling. It was obvious they had. Very little was left on their plates. It was rare for anyone to complain about their meal at Grandezzas.
“It’s fine, Tabatha. Let’s order cappuccinos and look at the dessert menu. You said you wanted to try their crème brulèe,” the male rosemary lover said. Tabatha was having none of that though. She shook her head as her eyes grew wide and her bright green-colored contacts made them appear other worldly. I was guessing from their shocking effect that her natural color was a light green.
“We must go. I feel it,” she said, putting her hands on the edge of the table to push back and stand quickly. “Hurry, pay her and let’s get out of here.”
Working until close had just become entertaining. I was hoping he’d argue with her some more because I wanted to see what she’d do next.
“Tab, honey, you are covered in thyme. We are fine. You said so,” he said this as he cut his eyes in my direction with a silent apologetic look.
“ROSEMARY!” she spat out her correction and glared at him, before lifting her arm to point one of her shiny fingernails at the exit door. “It’s rosemary, and I am leaving. Pay her and come on.”
There was a good chance Tabatha was tripping on something illegal.
“Okay,” he replied with a sigh of defeat or frustration. “I wasn’t sure which herb you’d sprayed me with. Calm down.”
“You all should leave. The air is heavy with it,” she said loudly. “Tonight, the evil is thick.” After she announced that to everyone, she stalked out with her shoulders back and confidence clearly on display.
Ah, not drugs after all. She was one of those. I should have figured it out sooner.
“I’m sorry,” he told me as I handed him the bill.
“No worries,” I replied with a smile. “This is Savannah.” That was all the reassurance I could give him.
“She’s a witch or Wiccan,” he explained, as if those two things were one and the same. “She owns the Magic Apothecary in town,” he added, as if this made it any better. He had to know how absurd his explanation sounded. It did, however, explain the rosemary.
I kept my smile in place as he pulled out cash and handed it to me. “Keep the change.” “Thank you,” should have been my only response. The next words to come out of my mouth would be ignored, but I would say them anyway. “Knowledge of herbs doesn’t make her a witch. Be careful, both of you. It takes more than rosemary.” I spun and walked away then. I knew from past experiences that warning those who danced too close to the darkness they craved but were no part of it, did no good. They were always offended by the truth. They wanted to be magical, and when someone told them they couldn’t just choose to be charmed, the Wiccans got defensive.
I needed to check on the new table Heath had handed off to me, but first, I was going to the back to wait for the rosemary guy to leave. He’d most likely try to defend his girlfriend or think I was some religious zealot who was trying to save her soul. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with him anymore. I’d said all I was going to say. “The crazy is all over this town. Gotta love October in Savannah,” I heard a customer say to his date. Her laughter followed. It was easy to find this amusing. I wanted to laugh it off too. Pretend it was all fun and games. Let them be “witches” and have their meetings in the woods, wear their dark clothing, and sell “spells” from their storefronts.
Once, I had ignored it and not wanted to warn them. I hadn’t known of the harm it could cause. I hadn’t known of the dark, cursed souls who found their own amusement in women like that one. I knew now that if they got too close, found out too much, realized there were souls among them with more power than their herbs could create, then in a blink of an eye, their life would be lost.
I inhaled deeply, pushing back the memory of the pale, lifeless face of a teenage boy who had gotten too close. Found out too much. His obsession with my sister had led to stalking, to seeing more than he should, and my mother had made sure he never saw another thing. Childhood memories for me weren’t happy and inviting; they were dark and twisted. I couldn’t dwell on them for too long and still lead a normal life.
I went to help the two men at Heath’s former table. They were out of town businessmen who had been entertained by Tabatha’s theatrics. I’d heard their conversation as I approached them. Both wanted one more shot of Scotch neat and their bill. I handled their request, I laughed at their jokes, and I was left with a nice crisp one-hundred-dollar tip.
Tucking it away, I knew my conscience wouldn’t allow me to not split it with Heath. Tonight’s weirdness was a part of the downtown Savannah feel, and the other patrons had been right. In October, the oddity surrounding this town was worse. Tabatha may not have been a witch, but I had no doubt she knew her herbs and could use them to their full power. I was sure anyone who studied the benefits of herbs could do the same. I was a firm believer in essential oils. The peppermint could fix all kinds of ailments. It was basically the same idea as the herbs.
“You covering for Heath?” Ben, one of the other servers, asked as he took off his apron. “Yep,” I replied.
“The schedule said he had floors tonight. You doing those for him?”
I nodded, even though Heath had failed to mention that it was his turn to clean the floors when he had been begging me to cover his table. Maybe I wouldn’t be sharing that tip after all.
“I’d offer, but I’ve got a debate in two days that’s a large portion of my semester average, and I’m not ready for it.”
Most of the servers at Grandezzas were college students. There were several colleges around the area. I just wasn’t one of those college students. “I got this. Good luck,” I told him. “Thanks!” he replied, as he turned to leave after a brief pause like he wasn’t sure he should leave me.
I went to get the keys that were kept under the host stand and locked the front door. The night was slowing down outside. The streets were less busy. I stayed there until I watched the lights from Ben’s car fade away. Jacque would still be in the back with the kitchen crew cleaning up. The owners, Mattia and Greta, would have left shortly after eight like they always did. For the most part, nights here were predictable. My job tonight was to wipe down the tables and restock condiments. I’d get that done then move on to the floors.
I’d be the last to leave tonight. Jacque would fuss about that and he’d give Heath an earful about it later. It would take a lot of insisting to get Jacque to leave me here alone.
His exhaustion from today and desire to get home to his dogs, Raven and Roxy, would be what finally caused him to leave me here. He would tell Mattia and Greta about this, though, because he’d feel guilty for going home. Mattia would then lecture Heath about being more responsible when handing off his future shifts. Mattia and Greta were like caring, older parents to all of us. The idea of a female closing alone at night would horrify them both.
This wasn’t the first time I’d covered for someone else and been left on my own. Normally, we waited until Jacque left so he wouldn’t know I was going to be left alone. No server wanted to let down Mattia or Greta, but they were college students. They had a lot on their plate. I didn’t. I only had this job and I didn’t mind closing. Besides, there wasn’t a man or woman waiting in the shadows who could do anything to harm me. I was safer alone than with any man who stayed behind to walk me out to my car.
I was the evil they all should fear.