Which god has the power to cast out thunderbolts? What’s the difference between naiads and dryads, and who should you look for if you’re in search for gold?
In this witchy police procedural, rookie agent Blair Vavrin of the Circe Security Initiative (CSI) gets her first dose of supernatural danger when a storm of stray thunderbolts strikes down the magical town of Silver Mist.
As Mt. Olympus goes into lockdown and both humans and non-humans panic at the looming threat of a Category 4 Hurricane, Blair suddenly finds herself yanked out of Local Misdemeanors and tasked by her Horae boss to team up with mysterious handsome detective Paul Theodore.
Their mission: find an antidote for Zeus’ murderous mood swings.
Their first clue: a sprinkle of gold dust…that leads to one missing siren.
Their probability of success: not terribly good.
With the thunder god’s descent to madness growing deadlier by the minute, can Blair and Paul save the world before Zeus becomes mankind’s worst nightmare?
And I supposed it was, if you discounted the fact that the students were perched casually on broomsticks gliding waist-high in the air. And those housewives? Gossiping about the latest episode of Rich Witches of Salem, which – if what they were saying was true – was completely scripted and not a reality show as its producers kept insisting it to be.
An ordinary day in Silver Mist all in all, and if you’re wondering what other humans would think if they stumbled on this scene, well, that’s what this town’s name was all about.
Coastal towns like ours were always the foggiest in Maine, but Silver Mist was a little bit different. The faint mist that covered our streets all year round was a glamour spell, and it prevented human strangers from seeing what they weren’t supposed to see.
Like Panda’s, for instance.
Humans would only see a dilapidated, burnt-down motel, but in reality it was a sprawling, well-kept diner with the words NON-HUMANS WELCOME flashing in rainbow colors on its LED display.
Panda’s was unsurprisingly full by the time I made it to its doors, with most locals in the habit of coming in early so they could take their time chatting over pancakes and homemade brews before heading out to queue for the 8AM bus.
A quick glance around the panda-wallpapered-diner showed one vacant seat left at the end of the counter, and luckily for me it was also right next to Mr. Handsome.
I shoved my guidebook back into my bag before walking up to the counter, not wanting to appear like some neophyte witch (which I was, unfortunately, but nothing wrong about keeping that to myself, don’t you think?).
“Mornin’, Sleeping Beauty.” The diner’s owner greeted me in his usual booming voice, and I made a face as I slid into the high-backed stool and hung my tote bag on one of the hooks under the counter.
“Very funny, Mr. P.” P stood for Pan, as in the famed satyr from the Greek myths. His human form was a large, mustached man with moss-green eyes, dressed perpetually with a chef’s hat and apron over his striped shirt and pants. Nix – one of the diner’s regular waitresses – once told me that both the chef’s hat and apron were spell-protected. The former was to keep his horns away from sight, and no amount of headshaking would ever dislodge the hat off his temple; the latter, on the other hand, was a magical armor, just in case Mr. P had to protect his diners from supernatural trouble.
He was a nice man, really, but he’d be much nicer in my opinion if he would stop reminding me of the first time I had come to his diner. I had just moved in to Silver Mist that day, and I had been so tired arranging furniture that I had found myself falling asleep in one of his booths.
And I might have snored once.
Well, okay, twice, but it wasn’t polite to count.
“So what are you having?” Mr. P’s gaze slanted towards the man seated beside me as he spoke. Want him, for instance, the owner mouthed with a wink that had me choking and hastily shaking my head.
“Just the usual.” Picking the menu on the counter, I casually lifted it to hide my face from Mr. Handsome so I could glower at the satyr without being seen. That was another not-so-nice habit of Mr. P: he had sort of guessed about my embarrassing crush at Mr. Handsome, and he loved to torture me about it every once in a while.
The ancient satyr looked like he was in the mood to prolong my torment with more irreverent winking, but one of the other diners called out to him then, and I breathed a sigh of relief as Mr. P bustled off. I stole a look at the man seated beside me – his concentration remained fixed on the sheaf of papers he held in his hand – and I found myself releasing another inner sigh.
I had taken to calling him Mr. Handsome for good reason, believe me. His looks strongly reminded me of Robert Redford in his younger days (think Barefoot in the Park) with his thick blond hair, chiseled features, and tall, lithe frame that was as elegant as it was powerful. Add to that his unmistakable air of mystery, and can anyone blame me for being just a little obsessed?
You see, everyone in town was either non-human (like Pan) or a human (like me) employed by the former, and majority of the local men of Silver Mist were either small business owners (non-human) or daily commuters with blue-collar jobs (human) at the city.
Most of the time, it was easy to figure out who was which – with the glaring exception of Mr. Handsome, who fit neither bill. He kept mostly to himself unlike the other locals, and I only ever see him talking to Mr. P. There were also other ways he stood out, such as his penchant for beautiful, tailored suits, for instance (Savile Row, not Italian), and the irregular times he would drop by the diner.
Thanks to Mr. P, everyone working at Panda’s Diner also knew about my ridiculous infatuation, and most of the staff had taken to sending me real-time photos of Mr. Handsome whenever he dropped by.
4AM on a Tuesday, 1PM on a Wednesday, and even 11PM on a Sunday, which was unheard of for the respectable, hardworking townsfolk of Silver Mist. What kind of work could one possibly do to have so much flexibility with his schedule?
It was possible, of course, that he was simply a man of leisure, but I didn’t think so. There was the state of his hands, you see. I’m a great believer of a person’s hands saying a lot of things about its owner (it’s probably why CSI had placed me in the Palmistry Training Protocol), and Mr. Handsome’s hands certainly said a lot about him.
Prior to moving to Silver Mist, I used to be one of your run-of-the-mill, overworked, and underpaid workers trapped in a concrete jungle in California. Office guys were a dime in a dozen back in those days, and trust me when I say that none of them had hands like Mr. Handsome’s. Those guys had weak-looking hands and manicured nails, hands that looked like the most physical thing they did was carry a cardboard tray of Starbucks coffee every time they needed to buy their way into their superior’s good graces.
Mr. Handsome’s hands, though…
They were large, rough, and callused, the kind that men who knew what real work meant would have. Was he that type of man? I suppose I could just ask him, but---
“Morning, Blair,” Nix sang out as she emerged from the kitchen. Tall and slender, the younger girl was at that rebellious stage in her life where she equated hair color to an assertion of her individuality. Last week’s color had been ash gray. This week’s was cotton candy pink.
“You look beautiful as always,” Nix gushed as she reached me.
“Nix!” My voice was half-pleading, half-hissing (I’m not sure how I managed it, but I did). I loved that she and Mr. P were trying so hard to get Mr. Handsome to notice me, but at this point he would have to be an idiot not to know what was happening.
Nix’s eyebrows shot up in feigned surprise. “But you do look beautiful. Honestly, I can’t believe you’ve been living her for over a month---”
“And you’re still single,” the younger girl finished triumphantly.
Nix’s eyes danced with mischief as she cocked her head towards Mr. Handsome’s direction.
I shook her head. No way was I looking at him after what she said.
She cocked her head towards him again, more insistently this time. LOOK!
Oh, River of Lethe…here goes nothing.
I slowly turned Mr. Handsome’s way.
Magnetic hazel eyes collided with mine, and I quickly snapped my head back. As mortifying as it was to admit, having our gazes meet was already more excitement than I could handle; my breath had locked in my throat as my heart rate picked up speed – for Cronos’ sake, Blair, please act your age!
“Here’s your order, by the way.” Nix placed a steaming hot plate before me. It was Panda’s Breakfast Special: sunny-side-ups, bacon, buttered toast, and a healthy serving of Mr. P’s homemade potato salad. Normally, the sight of it was enough to bring a smile to my face, but right now I had a nasty feeling I might not even manage a single bite.
I could still feel Mr. Handsome’s gaze on me, and I wondered glumly if Nix’s words had him realizing how plain I was. Maybe he even thought I was unattractive? I couldn’t blame him if he did. I knew I wasn’t hideous or anything, but I also knew my features were far from eye-catching.
Wavy dark brown hair I always kept tied up in a bun, the same shade of eyes, skin so fair I could easily get lost in a white background, curves that had never left me since I hit puberty – and, oh, did I mention I was kinda on the short side, too?
Honestly, the only thing I had going for me was my love for clothes. Today’s outfit was a loose floral dress in shades of blue and gray, black tights, and a pair of leather oxfords. If I had to put it in words, I suppose it would be that I had an instinct for knowing what looked good, and it was a talent I found quite handy, considering how little I could afford to spend on my wardrobe.
“Enjoy,” Nix was saying. “And if you want another pair of toast like you usually---”
“Err, no, this is fine,” I cut the younger girl off hastily before she could say more. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of how much I ate (nothing wrong with a healthy appetite, you know?), but I’d also rather not have my love for carbs be one of the first things Mr. Handsome knew about me.
Nix left with a cheerful wave after pouring coffee into my mug, and I did my best to ignore Mr. Handsome’s piercing stare as I took out my textbook. I wasn’t actually in the mood to study, but I needed something to look at while I struggled to regain my composure.
Placing the copiously bookmarked hardback on the counter, I absently started flipping through it while taking a bite of my toast. It had the words Level 1: Spells and Brews emblazoned in pretty big letters on its dust jacket, but I wasn’t worried about anyone catching a glimpse of it. All of my books from CSI were spell-protected, and unless they were on the agency’s to-see list, both supernaturals and immortals would see the same thing humans did: a dusty, obscure economics manual published the first year Adam Smith started talking about modern capitalism.
Thirty minutes later, and I found myself gaping at my empty plate in surprise. I had actually ended up so engrossed with this week’s reading material I had finished my breakfast without even realizing it. I had even forgotten all about Mr. Handsome of all things.
Struck by a sudden urge to have another look at him, I casually reached for my coffee, hoping to peek at him over the rim of my mug---
Thunder like no other suddenly roared outside the diner, and I jerked involuntarily. My hand rattled, and coffee spilled on the opened pages of my textbook.
Brooms and sticks!
As I hurriedly pulled out a couple of tissue sheets from the holder, I missed the way Mr. Handsome frowned when he glanced at my book. By the time I turned around, Mr. Handsome had a charmingly polite smile on his face. “May I help?”
His voice was deep but gentle. It was my first time to hear him speak, and it had me stammering like a ninny. “It’s f-fine. I c-can---” My voice trailed off as Mr. Handsome pried the sheet of tissue from my hands and mopped the stain on my page.
After, he ran his fingers on the wet, dark spot, and when he lifted his fingers the page was completely dry and stain-free.
I blinked. “Umm. Wow.” I was genuinely spellbound. I had seen other witches perform similar tricks, but never with the same ease and speed that Mr. Handsome had displayed.
“It’s a fairly simple spell,” Mr. Handsome murmured. “I could teach it to you if you like.”
Before I could even think of what I wanted to say, he had already reached for my hand, and the impact of his touch was, for lack of a better word, incredible.
A thousand sensations bombarded my body – shock, thrill, excitement, fear, anticipation – I simply felt too, too much, and I kept feeling more as Mr. Handsome slowly guided my hand into repeating the necessary strokes for the spell.
I did my best to memorize them, but it was impossible. Every second of having his fingers hold mine had secret parts of my body trembling in acute awareness; in the end, all I could do was focus on keeping myself from fainting.
“Easy, right?” He let go of my hand, and I didn’t know whether I felt relieved or sad that he was no longer touching me. It still seemed so surreal, and my senses had yet to recover from the fact that Mr. Handsome’s hand had held mine in the first place.
“With enough practice,” he told me, “it should be doable for a Level 1.”
I started to nod and thank him when I realized what he had just said. My gaze flew to his, but he only smiled at my obvious surprise.
“How did you know I’m a Level 1?” I questioned uncertainly.
“Because your book says so?”
My jaw dropped. I had suspected that might be it, but having him confirm my thoughts was still a different thing altogether. If he could get past an agency-executed spell, then did that mean he was also working for the government?
His lips suddenly twitched. “You didn’t think I could read it, did you?”
“I…I…” My shoulders lifted in a helpless shrug. “I have no idea what to think about you.” I hated how boring my answer was, but I was such a bad liar it was useless to even try.
“If it’s any consolation,” he murmured, “I also think you’re a bit of an enigma yourself.”
His smile turned faintly apologetic. “I didn’t expect you to be working for CSI. I’d never have imagined you the crime-fighting type.”
“That’s because I’m not,” I answered somewhat guiltily. ‘Crime fighting’ sounded so violent, and I had always been more of a pacifist, the kind that insisted on seeing half-full glasses even if there was only less than an ounce left. “When I got recruited, I only signed up for Local Misdemeanors.”
“Missing cauldrons, vandal spells, things like that?”
I nodded. “I know most people find it boring…”
“But you enjoy it,” he concluded. “Don’t you?”
“I’ve lived 26 years of my life without magic, so everything still feels so new and exciting. I know it’s silly,” I confessed, “but I’m always looking forward to every case assigned to me.”
“No matter how minor?”
“No matter how minor,” I affirmed firmly. “There’s actually a running joke in HQ. They say I’m the only agent who’d cry at being given a day off---” I stopped speaking. Oh, cast it. I just realized I had allowed my mouth to run away from me.
Mr. Handsome, however, didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, and he reclaimed the reins of our conversation with the enviable ease of a practiced charmer. He asked me about my Level 1 lessons and whether I found it easy or difficult. I had the most shameful urge to lie, but in the end, I simply opened my book to a random page and let him see the humiliating truth with his own eyes.
The page I had opened to was heavily underscored with neon highlighters, and the margins on both pages filled with my scribbles. “Be honest, please – does this say passionate about work or desperate to pass Level 1 exams so I won’t be the only neophyte witch in the agency?”
Mr. Handsome grinned. “It’s that bad?”
“Well…considering how my instructor asked me to start saving money so I could afford an expensive offering to Athena, what do you think?”
“Extremely bad,” he answered right away with a grin. I grinned back of course, all the while thinking that I couldn’t remember feeling any happier. Oh, be still, my bewitched heart.
It suddenly occurred to me that we had been talking for some time without having even exchanged names, and I took a deep breath, wondering if I could find the courage to ask for his first. I opened my mouth, but before I could say another word, lightning flashed outside the diner, followed by the power going out. Another second passed, and my phone started playing the theme song of Mission Impossible.
This was not good.
I read a ton of books but rarely leave reviews.
This book deserves a review.
Love all the characters and fell in love with the main ones, Paul ( cough, cough) and Blair, LOL!!!
I really hope she continues with the series.
She as a lot on her plate with her other books, as well as her other one name Marian Tee.
I never, EVER read a series until it is complete but with this one i had to keep.going. It was that good!!
- Amazon 5-star review