Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family #1)(8) read online by Melissa de la Cruz
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Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family #1)(8)
Author: Melissa de la Cruz

The reverend and his wife ordered a decent bottle of wine, and Blake wanted a beer. She set the orders on the bar and turned to her final customer. “What can I get you, sir?” she asked the mayor.

“Whiskey, straight, thanks Freya.”

“Sure thing, Mayor,” she said. Todd Hutchinson was young, slick, and ambitious. He had big plans for North Hampton and had swept into office on the campaign donations of people like Blake Aland. The young mayor was popular around town, although Freya knew her sister, Ingrid, was not a fan ever since she’d gotten wind of his proposal to sell the library. Poor Ingrid, there was nothing she would be able to do if the proposal was approved.

Unlike Ingrid, Freya had nothing against Todd, who was polite and tipped well. He was married to a local news anchor rumored to be in line for a national spot on the network. Maybe that was the reason he’d had to resort to online porn. Two huge careers meant couples rarely had time for each other. It was too bad. Freya handed him his whiskey and turned back to the bar.

“What’s up tonight? So quiet for a Friday,” said her boss, Sal McLaughlin, who’d inherited the North Inn and its bar from his brother, who’d retired. Sal was a cheerful man of seventy, with wiggly eyebrows and a belly laugh. He had hired Freya on the spot and acted as her honorary grandfather. Sal coughed noisily into his handkerchief and wheezed.

“You all right? That sounded pretty gross,” she teased as Sal blew his nose again with a big honk.

“Allergies.” He shrugged. “Must be the change of weather.” He wiped his nose and sighed, his eyes tearing. “Always hits right about June.” It had been an unusually abrupt change from a rainy spring to a humid summer; the air was thick and heavy, even more so than usual. And the heat was not usually quite this stifling or oppressive so early in the season.

“It’s like a funeral in here. Who died?” Sal joked, as he cranked up the AC.

Freya shrugged. She knew it was her energy that was causing the gloom, but she couldn’t help it. So it was an off day. She couldn’t be expected to keep the party going forever, could she? A hand waved and she walked over to the opposite counter of the U-shaped bar where Becky Bauman was downing dirty martinis like candy. “Another one?” Freya asked.

“Oh, why not.” Becky sighed as she stared at her husband, flirting with his date, across the bar. Becky and Ross had recently separated. They had not been married long, but they were the parents of a six-month-old; and Freya saw that a darkness had clouded the love that had once held them together, as exhaustion and sleep deprivation led to nonstop arguments and quarreling that left both of them even more unhappy and unsatisfied, until Ross had finally had enough and moved out.

Ross was currently deep in conversation with Natasha Mayles, a former model who was one of the town’s too-too-toos: too rich, too pretty, too picky. Too good for any man to come near when it came down to it. The Natasha Mayleses of the world certainly thought too much of themselves to settle down with just anyone. It was a wonder what she was doing with Ross Bauman, who was not even divorced yet.

“What happened to us?” Becky asked, as she watched Freya assemble her cocktail. “I hate him. I really do. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Freya caught a flash of an image: another argument, this one vivid and gut-wrenching, culminating in a violence that had not been there before—arms flailing, the baby crying, a push down the stairs. . . . She turned away and hesitated. Regardless of what her mother or sister believed, truly she did not do very much to the drinks except make them taste better, a by-product of the fact that she made them. Everything Freya made or cooked tasted delicious, a consequence of her magical heritage.

But the ugly scene she had just witnessed—and she did not know who exactly was in peril, Becky, Ross, or their baby; the image did not reveal that much—made her think. Maybe if there hadn’t been a shred of love between them Freya would never have considered doing what she was about to do. But there was. She saw the two of them sneaking glances at each other when they thought the other was not looking. Besides, Natasha Mayles was all wrong for Ross. She swanned into the North Inn with her haughty accent and bored, quasi-European attitude.

Truly, it was a ridiculous rule anyway, why couldn’t they use magic? Why not? Just because of a few silly girls who told a few lies? So a couple of lying bitches were allowed to ruin their lives forever? Freya would never forget the way those awful girls had spun their artful story, their crazed histrionics in the courtroom, the growing list of suspects, the carriages that took the condemned down to Gallows Hill. How stubborn and blind she had been! She had assumed no one would believe their accusers, that no one in their right mind would think that she and Ingrid were capable of such evil. To add insult to injury, her own kind, their own Council, took away their powers after everything they had been through—hard punishment indeed. Well. She had had enough. She was tired of feeling afraid. Tired of feeling useless. Tired of trying to pretend she was something she wasn’t. Tired of hiding her light in a corner. Under a lampshade, behind a curtain, in a dark room. Tired.

Freya Beauchamp was made of magic. Without magic she was just someone who poured drinks. She had been so good for so long, all of them had, and for what? What was the point of it all, really? It was a waste of their talents; were they really supposed to just live in the shadows and fade away? Act as if they were ordinary for the rest of their immortal lives?

Freya thought of everything they had given up: flying, for one; she still remembered how it felt, zooming through the skies, the wind in her hair. She missed the midnight capers in the woods as well, the powerful rituals that were taboo now that pagan was a bad word. The world had moved on, of course, that was to be expected; maybe it would have happened even without the restriction, but now they would never know. Like the rest of her family, she was stuck on this side of the bridge, with no way to return home.

She made up her mind. She touched Ross’s beer glass and added just a smidge of gingerroot and lemon zest. Then she stirred it with the red straw from Becky’s cocktail. The pint of beer turned a bright shade of pink for a split second. Now, this was definitely against the rules, this little concoction she had made, this little love potion. Sure, she had practiced a little magic before, here and there—that boy back in New York, that vampire’s familiar she had healed, for instance. But that was in the East Village, where she had been fairly certain what little, insignificant, inconsequential magic she had performed had been artfully concealed and absorbed by the city’s own kinetic energy.

This was something quite different, different even from the little nudges she gave the police to help solve crimes. This was the first real love potion she had created in . . . well, when the number of years was so big, who was counting? Besides, it was a shame to let such a good couple go to waste, and she shuddered at the thought of what might be if she did not: that terrible argument, a child growing up without parents, one dead, the other in jail. Freya increased the potency of the drinks she was about to serve. It didn’t have to happen. All they needed was a little help to get over the bump. They just needed a little reminder of why they had been together in the first place. She set the martini in front of Becky and the beer in front of Ross. “Cheers!” she told them, holding up her own glass.

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