A Maryland Witch by @CatherineMesick is a New Year New Books Fete pick #cozymystery #giveaway #books
Title: A Maryland Witch
Author: Catherine Mesick
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Shortly after Chloe Bartlett returns to her hometown, her family’s greatest secret is revealed—she and her sisters are witches. While the town is still reeling from the news, Chloe’s high school rival is attacked and another young girl is placed under the infamous Sleeping Beauty Curse. Suspicious eyes soon turn to Chloe, and the whole town believes she is guilty.
As Chloe investigates the attacks, with a little help from the handsome but irritating Professor Mike Fellowes, she discovers that there may be a deeper and deadlier plan afoot—one that’s focused on her.
Can Chloe unravel the mystery in time? Or will she fall prey to the malevolent figure lurking in the shadows?
“Good afternoon, miss. Can you tell me what this symbol is?”
I looked up into a pair of dark eyes. The eyes were matched by equally dark hair, and both hair and eyes belonged to a handsome man—he would have been extremely handsome if not for the look on his face.
He seemed skeptical—and challenging—as if he’d caught me at something.
I looked down at the piece of paper the man had placed on the desk. It showed a symbol drawn in black ink—it looked like an uppercase L intersected by another, upside down uppercase L:
I drew in my breath sharply.
“No,” I said. “I have no idea what that is.”
The man raised one mocking eyebrow. “Isn’t this the library?”
I glanced around me, as if to reassure myself. Between the man’s good looks and the shock of seeing the symbol, I was momentarily disoriented. But the study tables were full of our regulars, and our books sat on our slightly dusty shelves in quiet repose like they usually did.
We were indeed in a library.
“Yes, this is the Crabtree Bay Public Library,” I said a little unsteadily.
“Oh,” the man said. “I thought the library was supposed to be a repository of knowledge. And I thought librarians were supposed to be smart.”
“Well, we don’t know everything,” I said, feeling myself bristle. “And just because you’ve doodled a mark on a piece of paper doesn’t mean I can tell you what it is.”
The man persisted. “Aren’t you Chloe Bartlett?”
“Yes,” I said. Despite the man’s sneering tone, hearing him say my name made a little tingle run through me. “Yes, I am.”
“And you’re still saying you don’t know what this is?”
The man tapped on the piece of paper, and I glanced down at it.
“No,” I said firmly.
“You’re lying,” he said.
And he was right—I was. I just couldn’t help it. The symbol was secret—and sacred. It wasn’t the sort of thing you discussed with strangers, and I hadn’t expected to see it. Denying that I knew about it was instinctive—I was just protecting my family.
“Let me explain myself, Miss Bartlett,” the man said. He drew himself up to his full height, which was considerable—he wasn’t short. “I am Mike Fellowes.”
“Who?” I said.
The man looked disappointed. “Mike Fellowes. Professor Michael Fellowes of Henrietta College. Surely you’re heard of me?”
“You’re a professor?” I said, startled. “You don’t look much older than I am. And I’m twenty-three. And besides, you’re too—”
I stopped myself quickly. I’d been going to say “too handsome,” but there was no way I was going to admit to something like that now.
I looked at the man before me, who still seemed to be struggling with the idea that I didn’t know who he was.
“Oh, I get it,” I said suddenly. “You’re a TA, and you’re trying to make yourself seem important.”
I winced a little on the inside as I said the words—I hadn’t meant to sound quite so sharp. But then again, I was still reeling from the sight of the symbol, which he kept waving around.
“A teaching assistant?” Mike said. “Me? I’ll have you know that I’m twenty-seven years old and a full professor.”
“Congratulations,” I said. I meant that sincerely, but somehow it came out sounding a little sarcastic.
“And do you know what I’m professor of?” Mike said.
“No,” I replied. “I thought we’d established that I’d never heard of you.”
Mike’s mouth hung open.
After a moment, he recovered himself. “I’m the new Professor of English and Folklore Studies. I’ve published several folklore books—all of which are available at Fogerty’s Bookstore downtown.”
“Well, they’re not available here,” I said.
Mike scoffed. “And you would know?”
“Yes, of course,” I said. “I know my library. There are no books by a Professor Mike Fellowes in the folklore section. It’s Dewey Decimal number three hundred ninety-eight right behind you. Check it out if you don’t believe me.”
Mike glanced around at the shelves I’d indicated.
As he did so, I noticed that several of our patrons were frowning at the two of us—our discussion had grown a little loud.
Mike turned back to me. “That’s not the point.”
“What is the point?” I asked. “And please keep your voice down. People are trying to read in here.”
“The point is,” Mike said, “that you believe you’re a witch. Deny that!”
He said the words in a loud, ringing voice and then crossed his arms across his chest.
“Shhh!” Mrs. Ludlow hissed. She was one of our regulars, and she was glaring at the two of us over the top of her glasses.
For my part, I was too stunned to say anything.
Nobody knew I was a witch.
That was a secret we had guarded for three hundred years.
Everyone in the library was looking at us now.
I found that I was having trouble breathing.
Mike went on. “You also have two sisters—Alberta and Rafaela Bartlett. And they’re also harboring the delusion that they’re witches. Is that not right?”
I looked around at all the eyes that were staring at us.
This isn’t happening, I said to myself.
Just then, I caught sight of a swift movement nearby.
I turned and saw a familiar figure rounding the corner of the stacks in the graphic novel section. It was Joe Osgood—tanned and muscular, with long, light brown hair that was streaked with gold. He had a bit of a crush on me, and he was often to be found lingering near the comic books and pretending to read them, while actually peering around the corner to look at me. Most days, Joe’s presence was a little irritating, but today it seemed as if it could actually be a good thing.
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