A Haunting Midlife (Witching After Forty #3) by Lia Davis


Chapter One





Done!

Finally.

After months of hard work, starting and stopping, a paragraph here and a chapter there.

Now it was done. After struggling for the last several weeks with the ending of the novel, I typed ‘The End’ with glee and a feeling of accomplishment. The next step was to let that book baby sit on my computer and marinate until I returned from Philly. A few weeks of perspective would help me see errors more easily before shipping it off to my editor.

I leaned back in my comfy office chair and stretched. My muscles nearly creaked as they loosened. Ah, how I missed my younger days of writing for hours on end only to jump up and bounce from one activity to the next without a crick in my neck or stabbing pain in my back.

Picking up my coffee cup, I frowned to find it empty. Again. Ugh. It seemed like I'd make a cup and it would set until it got cold, or I'd turn around, and somehow it was empty.

I set the mug back on my desk and ran my hand through my hair. It got stuck halfway down to my shoulder. What the hell did I have in my hair? Something sticky. Ew. Must have been that late-night… or was it an early morning snack? Leftover donuts from this morning. Or yesterday morning. Olivia had dropped them by at some point.

Wait, what day was it? I'd been holed up in my office for too long.

I needed sleep.

But hey, it was all worth it. Another manuscript in the books. Heh. Pun intended.

Standing, I picked up my cup and my trashcan full of snack wrappers and takeout boxes. Damn, how long had I been in the office? Aka the writing cave. By the look of the overflowing trash can, I’d guessed a week. That couldn't have been right. Surely it wasn't that long. I tended to lose track of things when I got in the zone. Clay had always taken good care of me when this happened.

Owen, Alfred, and Larry had been trying to keep my head above water, so to speak, but every time they tried it made me think of Clay doing it. And then I'd get sad again, making it harder to focus on the words.

I opened my office door and stepped out into the downstairs hallway. I had closed the door around midnight—I think—to keep Snooze and his new girlfriend out of the room so I could focus. Lucy, the pretty white cat I brought back to life over the weekend, could talk. Like full sentences. And holy crow. That little kitty was chattier than a teenage boy. Well, boy of any age. Man, could they talk. Lucy would fit right in. Most people thought it was the girls that always had diarrhea of the mouth. I'd never raised a teenage girl, but I had raised a teenage boy, and Wallie hadn't shut up for like four years.

Emerging from the hallway, I caught the scent of bacon and coffee. I gravitated to the yummy scents like they were calling me. When I reached the dining room, just off the kitchen, though it was technically the same room because of the open space, I froze.

Alfred, the house ghoul, stood near the stove, flipping bacon with his Kiss the Cook apron on. Sammie was a few feet behind him, holding out a plate. I soon realized why when Alfie reached over to another skillet and launched a pancake at him.

With a surprising show of skill for a kid his age, Sammie caught the pancake with his plate. "Hey!" I cheered. "Go, Sammie!"

Seven heads turned toward me, staring like I had grown an extra set of arms. Owen, my friend, roommate, and mentor raised his black eyebrows and pushed his dark hair out of his face. Sam and Olivia, my childhood best friend and his wife, who was my current best friend and had taken the central role as my Person with a capital P, grinned as Olivia eyed my hair. Just to be sure, I checked. Nope, no extra arms. But my hair was a mess—half up in a sloppy bun and half down around my face. The latter had the sticky donut yuck in it.

Zoey, my sort-of adopted daughter, snorted and turned back to her pancakes while Wallie, my biological son, barely spared me a glance as he ate. He was long used to my crazy appearance after emerging from my cave.

"Is Sammie out of school?" I asked as I tugged down my oversized tee and pulled up my leggings. Comfy clothes were staples for a writing binge. Again, I wondered how long I’d been in the writing cave.

Olivia burst out laughing while Sam asked, “Did you sleep last night?”

Last night… “Oh! It’s morning already.”

"Yeah," Olivia said with a giggle. "It's teacher's planning day. No school today."

Oh. I had lost a few days.

Alfred came over and took my cup and the trash can from me. He glared at me and grunted. Then he pointed to the stairs. I didn’t need a translator to know what he meant. I needed a shower. Probably pretty badly.