First Chapter Friday--A Witch in the Woods!

Jenna St. James

Hello! Have you read the A Witch in the Woods series with game warden witch, Shayla Loci...and her sidekick, Needles, a flying and talking warrior porcupine? This paranormal cozy takes place on Enchanted Island, with Shayla surrounded by her close family and a gargoyle sheriff, Alex Stone, and his teenage daughter, Zoie. A Witch in the Woods has all the feels--mystery, magic, and just a touch of romance.

Chapter 1:

“Thank you for helping me move the last of my things in tonight,” I said to my younger cousin, Serena. “I’m sure you’re exhausted after working at your bakery all day.”

“Not really,” Serena said. “Now that Valentine’s Day is over, it’s pretty much business as usual.”

My cousin, Serena, owned Enchanted Bakery & Brew with her best friend, Tamara Gardener. I’d always had a special place in my heart for Serena, even though she was twelve years younger. When her father died in a boating accident right before her birth, Serena’s mom—Aunt Starla—moved in with Mom and me for a couple years until Aunt Starla could get back on her feet.

“I think these are the last of the boxes,” Serena said. “Where do you want them, Shayla?”

“Just set them down in here,” I said. “I’ll put things where they need to go later.”

Serena waved her hand through the air and gently guided the two boxes over toward the couch before lowering them to the newly installed hardwood floor I had put in before my arrival. There were still numerous improvements and updates I needed to make to the old house, but I figured the floors would be the best place to start.

“Being a witch with powers on moving day is the best,” I joked.

“I still can’t believe someone is living in the castle again,” Serena said. “It’s about time. I hated the fact this place stood empty all these years.”

So maybe house was an understatement.

My dad had a limestone castle complete with a round turret and dozens of arched windows built for Mom when he found out she was pregnant with me. On the ground floor was the great room, a parlor, a music room, kitchen with a conservatory attached, laundry room, one bathroom, and one bedroom for a live-in housekeeper that Mom never employed and later turned into a sewing room. My favorite room in the castle, the library, was also on the first floor in the lower turret.

The foyer featured cathedral ceilings and new travertine tile flooring. A mahogany staircase, wide enough for two cars to pass, wound its way to the second floor where there were four bedrooms and three bathrooms. And, of course, my bedroom growing up had been in the upper turret.

“Every princess needs her own tower,” Dad once told me.

My grandma—angry at my dad for what he’d done to my mom—had refused to move into the limestone castle. Instead, GiGi stubbornly remained in the cottage my grandfather built her when they first got married. It was only a mile down the lane, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t seen GiGi every day growing up. 

When I left home at eighteen to join the Paranormal Police Academy, I had no idea just a few years later my mom would close down the castle and move into town…leaving the castle vacant all these years.

“Let’s sit down for a while,” I said. “We’ve done enough tonight.” I poured two glasses of red wine and handed Serena a glass as she curled up next to me on the couch. “Now, how are things going with you and Grant?”

Serena smiled before taking a sip of her wine. “Good. Great, actually. If it wasn’t for the fact it’s a full moon tonight, he’d be out here helping you unload.”

I waved her response away with a flick of my wrist. “No big deal. I know it’s a full moon tonight. This makes it his—what? Third time shifting with the full moon?”

Serena’s boyfriend, Detective Grant Wolfe, had moved to Enchanted Island back in October. Grant wasn’t raised on the island. His father left after graduation when it became apparent he didn’t have the werewolf gene and couldn’t shift. Sometimes non-carriers found it too difficult to live on Enchanted Island and moved to the mainland to live with the humans. Grant’s dad had been one of those people. And since Grant’s mother was human, they never told Grant about his possible wolf gene. So when Grant moved to Enchanted Island and started showing signs of having the werewolf gene, and that it had just been dormant all these years, it really caused quite a stir—both within the paranormal community and in Grant’s family. Luckily his grandparents, both wolf shifters, lived on Enchanted Island and were helping him through the process. 

“Yep, third time changing,” Serena said. “Soon he’ll be able to shift whenever he desires, but right now it’s still so new he can only change with the pull of the moon. Tonight, though, he’s running with Dash Stryker, another werewolf his age.”

I frowned. “I know the Stryker name. I just can’t place the guy.”

Serena laughed. “That’s because we were only like six and seven when you left.”

“True enough,” I agreed.

“Dash has a younger brother, Tyler, but he’s a non-shifter. A Normal.”

I grimaced. “That has to be hard.”

Norm or Normal was the term used to describe those who, despite having supernatural parents, couldn’t shift or didn’t have magical abilities at all.

Serena shrugged. “Tyler was a year or two under me in school, so I didn’t know him that well, but he never acted like it was a big deal. In fact, he and his brother are quite close. They own Stryker Construction here on the island.”

I perked up at that. “You don’t say? I’m definitely going to call them. I meant to ask the guy who installed the floors if he knew of anyone who did remodels.”

Serena lifted her wine glass in the air. “Glad I could help.” She finished the last of the red wine and set the goblet on the coffee table. “I hate to drink and run, but Tamara wanted to do a full moon releasing and renewal spell tonight.”

“Of course!” I rose and gave her a hug. “Thanks for all your help.”

We strolled out of the great room and into the foyer. As Serena zipped up her coat, I opened one side of the extra-wide mahogany double doors and followed her outside.

It was silent and dark thanks to the trees surrounding me on all sides, but on the breeze, I could smell the salt from the ocean not too far away. There wasn’t another house around—outside of GiGi’s cottage—for at least five miles in any direction. Most supernaturals on the island never ventured to the northeast side…believing these woods to be haunted or cursed. Which was partially true. And because of that, rarely did anyone voluntarily step foot near our land.

Mom once asked my grandfather when she was a little girl why he’d built out where no other person lived, and he’d told her this location had called to him his entire life. And even though every citizen on the island told him he was crazy for building anywhere near Black Forest, he did it anyway.

“Aren’t you afraid to live out here by yourself?” Serena asked.

I smiled, looked out at the black trees surrounding me, and then up at the night sky twinkling with stars. “Not in the least. For the first time in a long time, I feel absolutely safe.”

If you'd like to continue reading, click this link:

ALSO...there's a boxset that introduces you to Serena and Grant and their story. You can find it here:

There are currently 11 books in this series with more to come!

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