Saturday, June 8, 2013

#Giveaway ~ Andromeda Rising by James Ramsey ~ Read my 5 star review and Excerpt!

Andromeda Rising
Celestial Series Book One
By James Ramsey
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal
Publisher: Independent
Release Date May 27, 2013
160 Pages

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I should have been paying attention. Growing up on the run from religious fanatics gave me more than a few good reasons to be careful, but I was just too tired to be as vigilant as I should have been. My mind was occupied with my latest case—a missing nine year old girl. I was usually good at my job, but sometimes I needed a little extra help from magick. I always managed to track down a cheating spouse or the occasional runaway, but now it seemed more children were missing from the streets of Seattle and nothing I did worked.

A cat jumped on my shoulder and jerked me from my exhaustion induced stupor. I spun into a defensive crouch only to see the cat had landed on the sidewalk behind me.

Time seemed to stop for a moment when the cat spoke.


My name is Jocelyn Matthews and if I live through tonight, I’ll tell you all about my life as a witch.

For the past ten years, Jocelyn has been living as a closet witch in Seattle. When the Inquisitors that have been after her from the time she was nine finally manage to find her, Jocelyn is thrust into a world she never guessed existed. From talking cats to dark elves, she'll have to do something she's never done before: trust someone other than herself. If she wants to find the children that have been going missing all over the city, she'll have to open her eyes to the bigger picture and find her place, not only for her safety but for the city as well.


Often accused of being lost in her own world, James spends most of her time at home with her husband and a menagerie of animals. 

She blames her love of the written word entirely on her Grandfather who owned a bookstore, feeding her addiction regularly. Cutting her teeth on illustrated fairy tales she quickly moved on to Farley Mowatt and Lucy Maude Montgomery. 

Proudly standing in line till after midnight for five of the seven Harry Potter books she was the only one there without a child.

Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Anne Rice, Keri Arthur, Jean M. Auel, Dan Brown, Stephanie Laurens, Christopher Paolini, Stephenie Meyer, and Jane Austen represent just a fraction of the titles found in her personal library. 

She is rarely found without a bag full of notebooks, iPods, and her Kindle.

Author Links
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads
My Review

This was a really fun witchy read, lol. I loved our main character and her familiar (Maeto), It was cool how he was introduces to Joss. She knew she had some powers, and figured she was a witch, but didn’t know much about the supernatural world at all, until a cat came along and talked to her, lol.

The relationship Joss has with Maeto was awesome. So funny at times too. This book was written really well, and sure did a great job pulling you into the story.

I don’t want to give too much away, but will say we have just about any supernatural creature that you can think of in this book. I really liked how it takes place in Seattle, as that is not too far from where I live, and can relate to some that was said about it.

Anyone who likes books with magic and other supernatural’s, in the modern day time, will love this book.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars, and highly recommend it.

This book was given to me for my honest review.

I also have this review up at Amazon, and at Goodreads


Here is an excerpt, Chapter 2, (one was more boring, reading chapter 2, without reading 1 will not get you lost, but gives a better idea of the book, and get to meet Maeto, the familiar.)

Chapter 2
God I was tired. Physically, emotionally―every way a person could be tired. It was close to three in the morning, and I was finally on my way home. I was tired and hungry and wanted nothing more than to collapse into my bed, maybe have a good cry, and sleep for a week. A cup of strong coffee sounded heavenly, but I wanted to be able to sleep when my head finally hit my pillow.
The humidity of the hot August night weighed heavily on me, almost as much as my heart, and seemed to add to my overall exhaustion. Mentally kicking myself for thinking the bus was less conspicuous than my Jeep, I hitched my heavy bag higher on my shoulder. As my sneakered feet plodded against the pavement, I thought about the crappy day I had and the reasons I was dragging my carcass home so late.
My day had actually started two days ago. From the minute I saw her gap toothed grinning face and offset braids in the picture her parents had brought, I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I was determined to find that little girl. Tonesha Johnson’s parents had gone to the police, but because she had a history of running away, and came from a less than affluent neighborhood, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson felt that the police weren’t taking it as seriously as they should, so they called us. How someone nine years old who chased an ice cream truck once and got lost had a “history of running away,” I couldn’t figure out.
After thirty-eight hours of tough leg work and my best magick, I still couldn’t find her. None of my tried and true methods worked. Nothing I tried worked. I had exhausted all my sources. It was like she vanished into thin air. Normally, I was able to at least locate a grave, but my best guess this time was that she was dead and there wasn’t enough left of her to find. And now there were more kids missing. But how was someone missing if no one knew they were gone?
My boss was going to be pissed. I had never come up short before. Of course no one knew about the magick and spells―that was a secret that I guarded with my life.
After dropping Peter off at the best place I knew of so he could heal in safety and maybe find a safe sanctuary as I had, I was looking forward to going home. Nothing had gone the way I had wanted it to today.
My miserable defeat and depression over evenmore missing kids had quickly turned to disgust when I had gotten a phone call from a friend of mine on the Seattle Police force. I wanted to go home, get some sleep, and then get back on the trail with fresh eyes and more energy, but my dumb-ass figurehead of a boss had screwed up the one assignment he had begged me for and blown his cover with the wife of a client we were supposed to be following. Again. Instead of just identifying himself as a Private Investigator, he tried to make up some lame excuse and landed himself behind bars for stalking.
So instead of going home to bed, I had to spend a couple extra hours to go down to the local precinct and convince my friends that as incompetent as Jimmy was, he was in fact my boss and the woman was his case. And I needed to do it all without seeing him. Maybe getting Jimmy out of jail would soften the blow when I told him, for the first time, I wasn’t able to complete my own assignment.
The boys at the precinct all suspected I did the actual work at Mackenzie Investigations and helped me out when they could. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, so getting him out of jail had been relatively easy; they hadn’t even booked him.
Jimmy continually found new ways to prove how unsuited he was to hold his Private Investigator's license. Sometimes I thought going into business with Jimmy MacKenzie had been a mistake.
Five years ago, I had been sitting at a café, people watching as I drank my coffee, when my attention was caught by a man with a camera. He was only slightly taller than my own five foot three frame and was wearing a very cliché tan trench coat over a dirty pair of jeans and a stained white dress shirt. He had greasy strawberry blond hair that hung in long unkempt tangles framing his weasel-like face and covering his ears. He was a stocky man who had gained far more weight than was healthy and had a very slimy, shifty look to him. In short, he stuck out like a sore thumb.
The man was very obviously doing surveillance on a woman, and he had been pissed when I laughed at him when he blew his cover in a spectacular way. He had been taking pictures of the woman when he got tangled up in a passing dog’s leash and ended up sprawled at her feet. The woman turned around at the commotion and saw all the surveillance pictures of her that had fallen out of Jimmy’s coat on the sidewalk. I watched as he tried to stammer out a plausible excuse over the barking dog, the frantic owner, and a snot-nosed kid crying over and over, “The bad man hurt Fluffy!”
The woman took one look at the mess and told Jimmy to go back to his client, her husband, and tell him that she had no intention of cheating so he could get her money in a divorce. She broke Jimmy’s expensive camera and stormed off as I sat wiping the tears of laughter away. Jimmy had sarcastically asked me if I thought I could do any better. When I told him a blind, deaf dog could have done better, he told me to prove it.
The next day, after I had solved two of his cases, we had come to an agreement. He would remain the owner and manager, but I would work the cases and get forty percent of the profits―in cash. I would get a small paycheck from the company commiserate with what an assistant would normally make, but the rest of the forty percent I would get in cash. All he had to do was meet with the clients and I would pose as his assistant taking notes. Now sixty percent didn’t sound like a lot, but with the way he was working before I came along, he was living pretty damn good now that I ran things.
The arrangement worked really well for both of us. He got paid for doing basically nothing, and I stayed off the grid because most of my money came in off the books. Thinking of our first meeting, I should have known better than to let him tail the wife. I just thought that after five years he would have learnedsomething. Apparently not.
My messenger bag felt heavier than usual as I trudged along the sidewalk. I kept my head down and decided I was just too tired to take the round-about route I normally took home. It was really late and the streets were deserted. I would have heard something if someone was following me. After almost forty one hours without sleep, my senses weren’t as sharp as they usually were. The events of the night had brought back some very painful memories. Peter had said the streets weren’t safe, and I couldn’t afford to be careless. Even if I was no longer a child, they were still out there.
My thoughts wandered to that night eighteen years ago. I had only been with that foster family for less than six months. They were decent and I really hoped nothing happened that would make them send me back to the group home. It wasn’t like I wantedthings to happen, but they always seemed to. All the therapists had said I was acting out, and they had diagnosed me with all kinds of mental and behavioral disorders to try to justify all the accidents at my previous foster homes.
Fires; things going missing only to turn up later; foster siblings having accidents; food going bad or getting spilled; disappearances; family pets uncharacteristically turning nasty. If something weird happened, they blamed it on me. The thing was most of the time it had been me, just not in the way they thought. Eighteen years ago, I found out there were people out there that wanted to kill me for the things I was able to do, and they would kill the people around me to do it.
Two men had broken into the house just after my foster parents sent me to bed, and they were looking for me. I watched from my hiding place in the laundry chute at the top of the stairs where I had hidden when they broke in.
“Where is she?” The man’s voice was rough, and I heard a thump and then a groan. He had punched my foster dad in the stomach.
“She who? Who do you want?” My foster mom was crying.
“The daughter of Satan you have living with you.” The second man’s voice was clear and kind, almost patient.
“What are you t-talking about?” Dad coughed out the question, still trying to catch his breath.
“The girl you have. The one you call Joss.” The nasty man practically spit out my name like it was something sour in his mouth.
“S-she’s staying at a f-friend’s house tonight.” Mom stuttered out the lie, and I knew she was trying to buy me some time to escape.
I crept out of my hiding place silently trying to sneak into my room.
“You’re lying!” the nasty man growled out before I heard a ringing slap when he hit my foster mom. I peered around the wall to see if I could run across the landing without being seen.
Another man came in dragging a kid my age. It was Eddie, my only friend at school. He had defended me against the bullies earlier that day when they were calling me a witch. It wasn’t my fault their yogurt was spoiled. They were so mean, they made it go bad. Eddie was crying and the man holding him shoved him so hard that he fell.
My foster mom hugged him to her as the man screamed stuff about God and the Devil. Eddie was ripped out of my foster mom’s grip and hurled against the wall, knocking him out. I remember rocking myself, praying that they would forget he was there, that he wouldn’t get hurt anymore.
Amazingly, my prayers seemed to have been answered, although he wasn’t any kind of threat lying there unconscious on the floor.
While they were distracted, I ran to my room and quickly gathered some clothes into a duffel bag as I listened to them try to convince my parents to tell them where I was. The last thing I did before slipping out the window was silently dial 911 and left the phone off the hook.
I heard many things that night I can never forget, but the worst thing was that these people believed I was a black witch, a child of the Devil, and that it was their mission from God to send me back to Hell. Now I may have been only ten, but even I knew that meant they wanted to kill me. Eddie had been the only survivor that night, and I was labeled a runaway for the first time. The police ruled it a home invasion, and I made sure I never stayed in another foster home for longer than eight months again, and I even switched states twice. I wouldn’t risk another family’s safety for me.
I came back to my surroundings with a jolt when a cat jumped on my shoulder, scaring the crap out of me. I spun into a defensive crouch with my hand over my hammering heart to see the cat land on the sidewalk behind me. My heart was beating a mile a minute somewhere in the vicinity of my throat. Both hot and cold at the same time, I felt almost nauseous from the adrenaline rush.
The cat looked me right in the eyes and time seemed to stop. The breeze that had been gently blowing through the trees, the loose tendrils of my hair laying across my face from the momentum of my panicked movement, everything seemed to be frozen or at least moving in slow motion as my eyes met those of the cat in front of me.
It had brilliant green eyes that, even in the dark, seemed to burn with an emerald fire. I could read a multitude of emotions in those eyes: relief, fear, anger, and affection. I felt safe, connected for the first time in my life. I was released from the moment and time sped back up to normal when the cat spoke.
I looked up past the cat and out of the darkness to see two men coming at me fast. I didn’t think twice. Taking the cat’s whispered shout, I sprang to my feet and ran. I was only five blocks from home, but I knew I couldn’t go straight there; they might follow me, so I headed in the opposite direction.
I heard heavy booted feet hitting the ground too close behind me, and suddenly, I was tackled hard. My shoulder and arm landed with a painful crunch on the cement of the sidewalk, barely protected by the denim of my jacket. I felt and heard the bones of my shoulder grinding together with the weight of my attacker, forcing them to try to bend in unnatural ways. I narrowly managed to avoid hitting my head by getting my only free hand up to brace for the impact, but the wind was still knocked forcefully from me.
Trying to catch my breath, I thrashed and fought in vain against the two men that had me in their grip and were pulling me roughly to my feet. I saw the flash of a large knife as my braid was used to yank my head back, exposing my throat to the blade.
I watched as a smallish man with another knife moved to stand directly in front of me making the sign of the cross with the hilt. “You will die for your sins against God this night, witch!” snarled the man.
The streetlight behind him only illuminated his below-average size and revealed nothing of his features other than the fact he very nearly had to look up to see my face. I was pulled roughly against the chest of my second, much larger, captor, and my scalp ached where the hair was being used to restrain me.
“Tell us! Where are your sisters, witch? Where are the others in your coven?” The voice from behind me was deadly, and I felt the heat of his rank breath on my neck.
“I don’t h-have any sisters. I don’t know w-what you’re t-talking about,” I stammered out. Peter’s warnings about religious kidnappers rang in my ears, echoing events from my childhood. They had found me. I was going to die.
There was a sting at my neck as the blade of the knife was pressed against my skin. “Whore! You will tell us what we want to know!”
I felt warmth where my blood welled from the cut and ran down my throat. “Let me go. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t do anything!” I hated the weak tone in my voice. I wanted to sound stronger, but the ghost of the ten year old girl I used to be was terrified. No matter how hard I struggled, I couldn’t loosen the hold of halitosis guy behind me, and struggling would only make the knife bite deeper into my neck. The street was quiet at this time of the morning, and I knew that if I tried to scream they would kill me that much faster and be gone before anyone even woke up.
The wiry guy in front of me put his hand over my forehead and began to speak. “I conjure you by the bitter tears shed on the Cross by our Savior the Lord JESUS Christ for the salvation of the world, and by the burning tears poured in the evening hour over His wounds by the most glorious Virgin MARY, His Mother, and by all the tears which have been shed here in this world by the Saints and Elect of God, from whose eyes He has now wiped away all tears, that if you be innocent you do now shed tears, but if you be guilty that you shall by no means do so. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.”
He removed his hand only to grab my jaw and lean in close, examining my face in the dim light from a nearby streetlight. “She pleads for her life and yet she shows no sign of remorse for her sins. She doesn’t weep. Our first sign of her association with the Devil,” said the one spouting some kind of weird scripture.
Who the hell were these guys?! They wanted me to cry? Had they scared the kids like this? Had they killed them?
“Your very existence is an offence to Almighty God,” the man holding me spit out with a putrid exhalation.
Seriously, had he never brushed his teeth? Great, Joss! Real appropriate line of thought while you have a knife at your throat! Maybe I was going into shock? Why couldn’t I think? My eyes darted around as I looked for something I could use to help, some way I could get away.
“Shave her head, strip her of her powers so we can get her out of here and question her properly,” he ordered the guy with the knife.
Shave my head?! OH HELL NO! I started to kick and twist as hard as I could. I didn’t want that knife any closer to me than it already was, and I definitely didn’t want to be scalped. It was no use; my captor’s hold was too tight.
I watched helpless as the shadowed figure in front of me raised his arm and moved the knife higher. I closed my eyes not wanting to see the huge blade getting closer.
Lord and Lady, please…help me.’ My silent prayer was more emotion than clear thought.
Suddenly, the man let out a surprised yelp, and I felt a heavy body slam into mine. I opened my eyes to see a large dog with his mouth wrapped around the arm holding the knife. The dog had knocked the little scripture guy to the ground and was shaking him so savagely the body was being wrenched forcefully from side to side, making him look a bit like a rag doll. I could see the guy’s own blood looking black as it splattered across his face in the orange light from the streetlamp, his terrified screams drowned out by the snarling of the dog.
The man holding me was surprised by the attack as well as the hit we had taken and had dropped his own knife. I grabbed the opportunity to reach up and claw at his face. My aim was better than I could have hoped, and I hit him in the eyes. He howled in pain, releasing me. Using the one maneuver I had learned in my years drifting in and out of group homes, I spun around quickly bringing my knee up between his legs and dropped him. I wasted no time and took off in a limping run as fast as my poor legs would carry me, praying the dog would buy me enough time to escape.
Behind me, I heard the sounds of the barking snarling dog and curses with bodies hitting the ground. Suddenly, there was an agonized scream that cut off with a sickeningly final gurgle. Goddess, forgive me. I hoped they were hurt badly enough to give up the chase. I had no idea who owned the dog, but I swore if I got out of this, I would find out and buy it a HUGE steak!
A few seconds later, I saw the cat running alongside me. “Quickly! Evergreen Cemetery!”
Now I had seen some weird, magickal things in my twenty-eight years, but none of them beat a talking cat. However, seeing as that same cat had just tried to save my ass, I was going to listen first and ask questions later. I changed direction, cutting through several backyards, and ended up running through the field at the elementary school. I could see the cat was still with me.
I dove into the bushes when I heard a muffled shout behind me. I was cradling my injured arm to my body and trying to stifle my gasping breaths so I could hear better.
“One of them is dead but the other is still out there.” The cat stopped to listen for a minute as I struggled to regain my breath. “He’s looking in the wrong direction. Come on, we have to get to that cemetery.”
I looked down to see the cat slinking out of our hiding place and after carefully checking to see for myself that it was right, I followed it. Hey, it was a talking cat! I wasn’t entirely sure I wasn’t hallucinating from lack of sleep.
We moved slowly, darting from shadow to shadow the best we could, trying to be silent. About ten minutes later, we were crouched down behind a large tombstone in a darker part of the well-maintained cemetery as I quietly tried to catch my breath from our panicked run. We listened for what had to be half an hour to see if we were followed. Finally, when the night settled back into its quiet, sleepy, normal feel, and I felt that I could breathe a bit easier, I looked down at my companion.
The cat was a large, beautifully striped tabby with bright green eyes that seemed to almost glow in the shadows of the moonlight as it filtered through the light clouds. It was sitting quietly beside me and staring quite intently.
I pressed a shaking right hand to the cut at my throat and pulled it away with fresh blood. I wondered how bad it was. “I guess I owe you a thank you for helping me out back there?” I felt kind of stupid talking to a cat, but to be fair, it did talk to me first. I think.
“You need to pay better attention to your surroundings. They would’ve killed you, you know.” Its tone was belligerent, and I would have been offended if it hadn’t been right.
I rubbed a hand over my face, belatedly realizing I had probably just smeared blood all over myself. “I know, you’re right,” I sighed. “I should’ve been paying closer attention. I should’ve gotten a hotel after work, but I just wanted to go home. It’s been close to...” I squinted at my watch, trying to make out the numbers in the moonlight “... forty-two hours since I slept last, and my instincts aren’t as sharp as they usually are.”
I tilted my head back so the cat could look at my neck. “How bad is it?” I asked it.
“More than a scratch but it won’t need stitches. Once we get it cleaned up, you should be fine.”
I had a first aid kit in my bag but didn’t want to make the noise necessary to retrieve it. My cut would have to wait. I was so tired. The days without sleep, emotional turmoil, physical exertion, and now the fading adrenaline left me shaky and exhausted.
After hearing more of the cat’s voice, I decided that that my unlikely savior was male. I looked down at the cat, and I swore I saw a small smile tip his lips.
“I expect you have some questions for me. The first of which would probably have something to do with me being a talking cat I assume,” he said wryly, his tail swishing silently.
If I hadn’t been sure that we were still being hunted, I would have laughed. I settled for a soft chuckle. “Yeah, that would definitely be up there on the list, but I think we had better save the explanations for when we get back to my place. You’re coming right?”
“Oh, definitely. I’ve been looking for you for a very long time; I’m not going to lose you now.” I could hear the slight humor in his tone.
I looked sideways at him. “You’ll have to explain that one later too.” I tried to ignore the pain in my arm as I settled myself more comfortably on the ground with my back to the tombstone, my pounding head resting against it. “So why am sitting in a graveyard in the middle of the night when I’m being hunted by a crazed lunatic?” I had to know why he told me to come here of all places.
“Because thankfully the Inquisitors are still under the archaic misconception that witches can’t stand on hallowed ground. This is the last place he’ll look for us.” His tone was filled with disgust, and he was looking around carefully. “We’ll stay here until dawn.” He looked over at me as his ears continued to scan for danger. “Why don’t you lie down and get some rest. I’ll wake you up when it’s safe to leave.”
Somehow I wasn’t surprised that he knew I was a witch. I mean really, he was a talking cat! A witch was nothing compared to that. I hadn’t missed the fact that he’d said “us” when he referred to the situation I was in either. For some reason, this cat had decided to throw his luck in with mine. The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me, and I laughed at the cliché picture I presented. A witch in a graveyard in the middle of the night with a talking cat. I let out an amused half-laugh, half-snort at the mental image.
Yup, the exhaustion was definitely messing with me. The emotional roller coaster I had been on probably didn’t help either.
I could feel the fatigue dragging at my battered body, so I took his advice and used my large messenger bag as a pillow. I would think about it later when I was more coherent.
I was enjoying the feeling of having my eyes closed when I realized I had no idea who or what this cat was. “I’m Jocelyn by the way. Jocelyn Matthews.”
His voice came out of the darkness, calm and soothing. “My name is Mateo. Sleep, Jocelyn, I’m here and I won’t let them get you.”
I took one last deep breath before allowing my body to fall into the sleep that it needed so badly. My last thought was wondering why I felt such a strong connection to a cat.
What seemed like only minutes later, I felt something soft tapping my cheek. “Jocelyn.”
Tap, tap. “Jocelyn, wake up.”
The strange events of the night came back in a rush, and I jerked painfully upright, confused but awake. Parts of my skin felt tight and dirty with remnants of smeared dried blood no doubt. I blinked a couple of times, letting my eyes adjust to the rising light of dawn. Crap. I rubbed my eyes with the knuckles of my right hand, my left too painful to use. I couldn’t have been asleep for more than two hours. I looked down to see the cat from last night sitting by my knee. “So all that really happened last night?”
He chuckled a little. “If you’re referring to being saved from religious fanatics by a talking cat and then sleeping in a cemetery, then yes.”
I sighed, still exhausted and very sore from sleeping on the ground. “Is it safe for us to leave?”
“Yes, for the moment. I would recommend we leave quickly,” he said as he stood and stretched, digging his claws into the dirt for traction.
I climbed tiredly to my feet, my body protesting every movement. Mateo looked amused as I looped the strap of my large messenger bag over my shoulder. “What?”
His head tilted to one side as he eyed my bag. “I was just wondering why you didn’t pull a sleeping bag and tent out of your...” his lips twitched as if he was holding back from laughing “...purse last night. Maybe a couple of pillows? It would have been more comfortable.”
I let out a less than ladylike snort and resisted the urge to smack him. “It’s not that big.”
“Uh huh.”
I rolled my eyes at him and headed off towards home. “Do we take the long way or go straight there?”
He seemed to consider this for a minute. “We go straight there.”
As we started walking, I carefully took my jacket off and hung it from the strap of my bag, silently bemoaning the loss of my favorite hat before un-braiding my heavy, waist length hair and arranging it to somewhat shield my face. It wouldn’t do much to disguise me, but I wouldn’t have my usual profile either, and it would help cover the blood that I was sure I had smeared all over my face and neck.
“I wouldn’t recommend going to work for a couple of days. You need to disappear for a bit. Do you have somewhere we can hide?” Mateo’s voice was low enough that I had to strain to hear him as he trotted at my side, tail in the air. It looked casual but by the motion of his ears, he was keeping a careful eye out for anything suspicious.
I smirked at his question. “Oh, I think I can manage something.”
Very quickly, we were at my house. It was an unassuming little white two-story house that was built in the 1940s on a large well sheltered lot set back from the main road. I had picked it up as a foreclosure and it was perfect. It had three small bedrooms—two upstairs and one downstairs—one bathroom, a small kitchen, a decent sized living room with a fireplace, and a dining room. The large lot backed right onto a huge park, and it even had a small detached garage. It needed a lot of work, but that was what I liked about it. No one would think twice about a single young woman living here; they would assume it was a rental.
I opened the gate into the backyard and led Mateo up the stairs to the back door, which opened into an enclosed porch area that held my washer and dryer. Once I took off my sneakers, I opened the inner door and let us into the kitchen. Relocking the door behind us, I went through the kitchen and turned right, walking down a narrow hall, and led us into the tiny downstairs bedroom I had turned into a reading room.
I stopped and looked down at the cat carefully, wondering if I was making a huge mistake in trusting him. I decided I really didn’t have a choice. I needed to be safe while I slept, and he wasn’t showing any signs of leaving my side long enough for me to slip away unnoticed. Besides, he was only a cat, and something told me I could trust him with anything.
I reached behind the edge of the large bookcase spanning the one corner and pulled; the whole unit obediently swung away from the wall noiselessly, revealing a hidden, narrow, metal spiral staircase. As I descended into a basement no one knew existed, I heard the quiet click of the bookcase closing behind us.
We stopped at the bottom, and I watched as Mateo took in our hiding place. The space was large, square, and took up the entire square footage of the house above. The floor plan was open save for a few strategically placed support posts. The staircase stopped in the very center of the house and opened into a kitchen that fully took up one quarter of the available space. Copper pots hung from a rack above a large hardwood topped island. To the right, against the outer wall, was a waist height, natural gas, open fireplace complete with a large black cauldron and a brick hearth, the chimney connecting it seamlessly with the wood fireplace in the living room above. Large, heavy, wood countertops framed the kitchen which had a double sink, a large side by side fridge and freezer, and a five burner natural gas stove.
To the left was a large living room with bookshelves lining the windowless walls, broken only by a flat screen TV in the corner and a low alter that faced the north wall. The living room had a deeply pillowed chocolate brown couch with comfy red throw pillows and a blanket hanging over the back, perfect for cuddling up in. A wooden chest-type coffee table sat on a large, plush area rug swirled in shades of beige, brown, and red, complementing the dark hardwood floors that went from wall to wall, adding warmth where the few visible concrete walls were cold. Separating the living room from the bedroom was a floor to ceiling, heavy rust-red and brown colored curtain that hung even with the staircase forming a wall and hiding two more support columns for the floor above. I watched as Mateo stepped into the gap in the curtain that made up the doorway to the bedroom.
My queen-sized distressed wood bed was centered against the right wall and had nightstands on either side. The down duvet continued the earth-toned theme in the living room and had brilliant red flowers embroidered across it that matched more small red accent pillows. I had hung rods on chains from the ceiling against the walls to hold all my clothes with custom-built drawers and shoe cubbies underneath.
The only real walls providing the necessary support for the floor above enclosed a large luxurious bathroom that took up the remaining quarter of the space and was accessed through a door to the left of my bedroom. It had a corner soaker tub, a large steam shower, toilet, linen closet, and vanity complete with sink. The walls were a soft white, and the floor was done in large, natural beige stone. Instead of the continuing the color theme of red and brown, I had really given in to my love of bright happy colors and the towels and bathmats were vibrant shades of turquoise and lime green.
Mateo came back to stand at my feet. “Okay, I’m impressed.”
I smirked. “Wait. There’s more.” I walked over to the last bit of counter space separating the living room from the kitchen. I opened the cupboard and gestured inside, where it was deeper and darker than it should have been for a simple cupboard. “This tunnel leads to the porch at the front door of the house. It’s a tight squeeze, but if I have to escape from down here, I can.” If he was going to stay here with someone out there still hunting me, he needed to know the escape routes. And if I was being honest with myself, I was excited to have someone to show my house off to.
I got up and led him back into my bedroom. I went to the far right corner to the space between my nightstand and the wall that was covered by hanging clothes. I pushed them back and pulled a drawer all the way out, exposing another tunnel. “This one goes out under the back porch and branches out into three separate possible exits. The right tunnel comes out of the work bench in the garage. The center tunnel leads to a hidden tree-cave in the park behind the house, and the left tunnel leads to a shed in my neighbor’s yard.” I looked down at him as I replaced the drawer.
Mateo looked as impressed as a cat can look. I limped my way back to the kitchen; I was famished. First-aid could wait a little longer. “Can I get you something to eat or drink?” I looked in the fridge and started to pull out the makings for a sandwich.
“I am rather hungry and some water if you don’t mind.” He jumped up to sit on one of the bar stools around the island. “So did you build all this with magick? I’m assuming it wasn’t part of the original plans for the house,” he remarked dryly.
I made myself a ham sandwich and poured a big glass of milk from the fridge. “Actually, the basement was already here. When I redid the floors upstairs, I lowered everything down through a large hole. It took me months, but I did all the work myself. The hardest part was connecting the two fireplaces and the gas lines for the stove. Of course, plumbing in the bathroom was no piece of cake either.” I put a plate of sliced up ham and turkey deli meat in front of him and a bowl of water after questioning him with a lift of my eyebrows.
“I used a bit of magick for the tunnels. It took me a long time to work out how to do it, and I was exhausted afterward, but I didn’t want to be trapped down here no matter how well hidden it is. That’s why I took out most of the walls for support beams and columns,” I said, gesturing to the open floor plan. “If I have to run, there isn’t too much in my way. As for the plans at City Hall, well let’s just say that now they only show the upper floors and leave it at that.” I smirked.
He chuckled and we sat and ate in companionable silence. The events of the last couple of days started to catch up with me. I finished up and put our plates in the sink, resolving to wash them later. I put the bowl of water on the floor under the stairs so Mateo could get some later if he needed it.
I turned to look at him seriously. “So I know we have a lot to talk about, but I really need some sleep. I’ve trusted you with more of my life than I have evertrusted anyone, so I really hope that I haven’t made a mistake.”
He looked up at me. “Jocelyn, I would sooner hurt myself than betray you. You have my word.”
I felt my brows furrow. “Well,” I hesitated. I really did trust him, although I had no idea why. “I guess we can talk about everything later. Make yourself at home.”
I turned and went to grab some pajamas before making my way to the bathroom. I carefully closed the door and then turned to face the damage in the mirror. I took in the tired and blood smeared face in front of me; I looked like hell. As Mateo had said, the cut on my neck wasn’t serious and wouldn’t need stitches.
I stripped off my dirty shirts and assessed my other injuries. The left side of my body was the worst. My left shoulder and bicep were turning a nasty shade of purple and black, and the back of my hand was scratched up. I painfully pulled off my now torn capris, having to peal the blood soaked fabric from my left knee which was scraped and covered in crusted blood and dirt. My left wrist hurt the worst, but I didn’t think it was broken. The palm of my right hand that had stopped me from hitting my head was missing several layers of skin and had gravel embedded in it.
Figuring the shower was the easiest way to clean all my cuts, I slowly re-braided my hair but carefully pinned it on top of my head, my scalp incredibly sore from the hair being pulled so savagely. I was just too tired to deal with washing it right now.
I took the shortest, hottest shower I could stand, needing sleep so badly the blue and green glass tiles on the walls blurred together to look like a hallucination induced caricature of the sea. I worried that I would fall asleep under the streaming water. I washed the blood, sweat, dirt, and the fingerprints of my attackers off me and then turned off the shower, swaying on my feet from fatigue.
I toweled off quickly, put some comfy clean pajamas on, and padded to my bed for some much needed rest when a thought occurred to me. “Mateo?” I called out.
“Yes?” His voice drifted to me from somewhere in the basement.
“Thanks. You know, for trying to warn me,” I said sleepily.
His voice was quiet and kind in the dark. “You’re welcome. Sleep well, Jocelyn.”
I crawled into my bed very grateful to have made it through another day. With a silent prayer for the safe return of the missing children and a sincere expression of thanks to the Goddess, I drifted off to sleep.

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