First Look! FREE Chapter Friday

K.E. O'Connor

Welcome readers! It's time for an exclusive look at an upcoming witch paranormal cozy - Every Witch Way but Wolf.

How did the werewolf lose his head?

No, it's not a joke. Crimson Cove is awash with warring werewolves. And I'm not purring. Werewolves mean trouble.

And then there's the continued invasion of the non-magicals. Why are they here? How do they keep sneaking in? It's another thing that has my murder mittens twitching.

When top werewolf negotiator, Emron Laker, loses his head, the trouble bubbles and risks boiling over as werewolves rampage and demand justice, putting my wonderful witch and all the non-magicals at risk.

As reluctant as I am to put my witch in harm's way, we want the werewolves gone, so offer our services as part of our animal control duties to sniff out the killer (well, I'll be doing most of the sniffing!)

We find troubled packs, unhappy bonds, and a den of issues.

Things are about to get frisky.

Want to tag along and see what we discover?


Join Juno and Zandra in the fourth Magical Misfits Mystery, full of complicated suspects, puzzling clues, and a feast of furry problems.

WOLF First Look! FREE Chapter Friday

Chapter 1

Glitter guns

“You go around the back of the barn. I’ll go in the opposite direction, so we can finally catch this troublemaker.” My whiskers twitched and my booping snooter wrinkled as I avoided a thin trail of sparkling glitter. If I got that on my toe beans, it would be lights out.

Sammy, my ever faithful feline companion, nodded. His tabby fur was fluffed all over his stout body, and magic glimmered around him. “When I first met Ajax, I thought she was nice, but these enchanted pygmy hippos are twice as mean as their larger relatives.”

I jumped over Zandra and Finn, giving my wonderful witch a sniff to ensure she was still breathing. They were the victims of encountering Ajax’s glitter and not getting out of the way in time. This enchanted pygmy hippo could shoot magnificent blasts of glitter from her rear end. One whiff of it, or if you got any of it on your skin, and you sank into a speedy unconsciousness.

Adrienne and Joel, two recent ghoulish additions to Finn’s volunteer team, ambled around the corner. They held hands as they shuffled toward us, oblivious to the chaos they’d wandered into.

“Hey! Keep out of the way. Ajax is on the rampage again,” I yelled.

Adrienne frowned and shook her fist in the air. “She’s nothing but trouble.”

Joel grunted his agreement. He still wasn’t much of a talker, even after being around me and Zandra for a month. But in that time, I’d grown to trust these ghouls. And Adrienne had turned into a remarkably caring ghoul. The opposite of how she was when she was a scatterbrained magic user parenting Zandra through her early years.

“They could help us bring down Ajax,” Sammy said. “Maybe the glitter parps don’t affect ghouls.”

“Better to keep them out of it. Adrienne, watch over Zandra and Finn. They’ll be confused when they come around. Let them know everything’s under control.”

“Sure thing, Juno.” She shuffled over, still clasping Joel’s hand. They made such a sweet couple.

Once I was certain my witch was being looked after, I dashed around the side of the barn. Sammy went the opposite way.

There was never a dull moment at Finn’s animal sanctuary. The critters he took in were lost or lacked direction. Some had been mistreated or had trust issues, while others simply needed gentle re-education before it was safe for them to go back into the world.

But this enchanted pygmy hippo was a whole other level of messed up. Ajax trusted no-one, stole food, and knocked out anyone who stopped her from doing what she wanted. I didn’t like to think that some critters were born bad, but this one had me wondering.

“Need a hand?” Binky, my new cougar friend, bounded into sight.

“Always. I didn’t expect you until later. Watch out for the glitter.”

Binky bounded over a line of glitter with ease and landed on a fine set of paws. “Tia is busy at the bakery with a rush order, so I was kicking my paws and had nothing to do. I figured I’d come and see what you were up to. Getting in trouble again, by the looks of it.”

“Trouble found me. Ajax got out. Watch out for her rear end, or anything sparkly.”

“Her again! When will she figure out this is a great place to stay?” Tia trotted along beside me as I hunted for Ajax.

“It takes some longer than others. This way. I’m sensing strong magic.” I slid an appreciative glance over Binky. She was transformed from the sorry-looking creature forced to kill for an unstable dark magic user. Her fangs were long and sharp, her fur gleamed, and the scars that had once littered her fragile body were gone.

She caught me looking and winked. “My fur has never been so glossy. Tia has been feeding me up ever since I got back to her.”

“It’s no less than you deserve. Follow me.” I slid around the barn and almost collided with Sammy.

He dodged me at the last second. “Hey, Binky! No Ajax?”

“Not this way. She can’t have given us the slip.”

“Over here.” Binky was racing away from the barn toward the back fences. “I see glitter. Only a few specks, but it must be Ajax.”

“She’s making a run for it. We can’t let her get out of the sanctuary.” I charged after Binky.

“We’ll stop her.” Binky flashed me a full toothed smile before bounding away.

“I see her!” Sammy said.

“We can use a pincer maneuver to stop her. I’ll go up the middle. You two flank me left and right.”

Binky diverted left, and Sammy went right, while I rocketed straight ahead, getting closer to Ajax’s wobbling rear end.

She glanced over her shoulder and squealed, her stubby legs speeding up as she raced toward the fence.

“No, you don’t. You haven’t finished your rehabilitation. It’s unsafe for you to be in the wild. Not until your glittery flatulence is under control.”

“Leave me alone. I don’t need anyone. I’m better off on my own.” Ajax’s voice was high with panic as she thundered closer to the fence and what she thought was freedom.

“You’re not. No familiar is. I know you’ve had a rough time, but we’ll find you someone better. A perfect companion who appreciates your uniqueness.”

“I want nobody.” She blasted glitter at me, and I narrowly avoided getting a face full and passing out.

Ajax had been discovered chained in the basement of a magic user gone rogue. He’d dabbled in power he couldn’t control, and it sent him mad. He’d become convinced Ajax was tainted with evil, so kept her a prisoner for months. It was thanks to a visit from me and my wonderful witch, Zandra Crypt, as part of our animal control job, that Ajax had been saved.

But because of that mistreatment, Ajax had a deep hatred for everybody. It was no surprise.

She darted left, heading toward Binky.

“I’ve got her,” Binky yelled.

Ajax launched into the air and flipped over Binky’s back.

Binky was moving so fast, she had to skid, almost flipped over herself, and wheeled around. “Did you see that? She’s fast for a stubby gal.”

“It was impossible to miss.” I joined Binky, and we chased Ajax. This little hippo had impressive skills.

She was heading back to the barns, which was perfect. She’d be easier to corner and herd to safety.

But Ajax didn’t make it easy on us. We completed three more circuits of the barns, and even I was winded before she finally slowed.

I nodded at Sammy to divert around the back of the barn so we could cut her off. Sammy sprinted away.

I stayed with Binky, darting past Zandra and Finn, happy to see them waking. Randal Nix had joined them. He was another new volunteer at the sanctuary, although his volunteer efforts were more to do with Zandra spending time here than because of his love for mucking out pens. Those two had a serious crush on each other, but neither was brave enough to make the first move.

When I got a moment, I’d rectify that. My witch had been on her own for a long time, and she deserved some sweet in her life. And Randal Nix was definitely that. A sweet, obliging, loveable tech mage geek. Just what she needed.

I rounded the corner with Binky beside me, and we slowed. Ajax was powering down to a trot, her beautiful gray mottled skin gleaming with sweat.

“You don’t have to fight us. You’ve got everything you need here,” I said. “No one will hurt you. This is a haven for familiars.”

“I’ve been promised that before.” Ajax wheezed out a breath. “Always lies. I had a bond I thought was unbreakable, but then it was ruined, splintered beyond repair by that idiot’s greed.”

“It was horrible what happened to you.” Binky chuffed out consoling grunts through her nostrils. “I was mistreated by someone, too. They filled me with unnatural magic and used me as a weapon. I hurt a lot of people because of it.”

Ajax was now walking, her head down. “I’ve heard your story. It’s tragic. But mine is worse. Why don’t you understand that I want to be alone? It’s not much to ask for.”

“Then you’d be lonely. And why have that when you can be here? Maybe even find someone new to bond with when the time is right.” I approached slowly, not wanting to startle Ajax in case she took off again.

Not that she’d get far. Ajax was cornered. She had nowhere to go.

A wheezing sound from the entrance of the sanctuary caught my attention. I glowered as a huge coach limped in through the open gates, the engine spluttering and complaining.

“More non-magicals?” Sammy peered at the vehicle.

“If it is, it’ll be the third group this month.”

The coach door opened, and a tall, thin man with lanky shoulder-length, mousy brown hair climbed out. He looked around, then patted the side of the coach and shook his head.

I breathed in deep, and frowned. “It’s definitely more non-magicals invading the sanctuary.”

“How do they keep getting through the wards?” Binky stepped forward, her huge head raised as she inhaled the pungent aroma of sweaty feet and armpits drifting from the coach.

I glanced at Ajax, concerned she might make a run for it. But she knew when she’d been defeated and was settled on her haunches, a grumpy look on her face. “No idea. I’ve spoken to the Magic Council about defective wards, but they’ve been checked and there was no problem. This can’t keep happening to Crimson Cove. It’s too much of a risk to have non-magicals blundering around. They could wander into a spell and get their brains fried.”

“Hey! Excuse me. I could do with some help over here.” The guy who’d climbed out of the coach raised a hand and walked toward the barns. He wore a red jacket with a yellow logo on the right shoulder.

“You watch Ajax. I’ll go see what he needs.” I trotted away from Sammy and Binky, and joined Finn and Randal, who were approaching the guy.

“Sorry to crash your party, but the coach has been playing up ever since we got into Crimson Cove,” Coach Guy said.

“How odd.” Finn was all dazzling smile and relaxed, while Randal stepped from foot to foot, looking like he needed a bathroom break. “You get it serviced regularly?”

“Always. Can’t bring the customers out on a dodgy coach. And I’ve got a golden oldies special today, and they complain like crazy if the ride breaks down.” Coach Guy chuckled. “At least this’ll give them something to talk about with the grandkids.”

“You planned a day trip to Crimson Cove? It’s rarely on anyone’s list of fun places to visit.” Finn had his angel wings pinned neatly behind him, even though non-magicals shouldn’t be able to see magic. Occasionally, it happened, though. Someone with latent abilities saw something they shouldn’t, and that raised tricky questions and required a mind wipe. Never a safe move to perform on those with no power.

“Well, it wasn’t the plan, but I guess we’re stopping for now. Can’t go anywhere until the coach is fixed.” Coach Guy looked around. “What is this place, anyway? A petting zoo? Please say yes. I can pretend I added a free stop to the trip. My golden girls love a bargain.”

“I can’t help you there. This is my animal sanctuary,” Finn said.

“Oh! Perfect. It’s open to the public? We’ve been driving for two hours straight, so everyone needs to stretch their arthritic bits. Do you have a public washroom? Cafe?”

Finn glanced at Randal. “I’m not set up for crowds.”

“It’s just my old girls, and they’re no bother. And we’ve got toilets onboard they can use. They’d love to see some of your animals. Might make up for the coach breaking. Would you mind? Of course, I’ll make a donation to your project. I’ve got a budget for activities.”

Finn tilted his head from side to side. “Most of the barns are off-limits. We’ve got animals in rehabilitation, and they can’t be disturbed.”

“Heard and understood. We’ll only go where you tell us. Or give us a guided tour. That way, you can make sure none of my ladies misbehave.” Coach Guy looked down at me. “You’re adorable. My old ladies would eat you up.”

I gave him a cool look. No one was eating me, old or young.

He chuckled as I narrowed my eyes. “I guess not that adorable.”

“Don’t mind Juno. She’s protective of her territory. Isn’t that right, cutie?” Finn leaned down and scratched between my ears.

I meowed my displeasure, since talking in front of a non-magical was never wise. They often fainted or screamed.

“How about I look at your engine?” Randal said. “I’m good with mechanical things. It’s a hobby of mine. If I can get you going quickly, you can be on your way.”

“That’ll be great. I was wondering if it overheated. It had an oil change recently and new filters, and there’s gas in the tank, so I can’t think what else it could be. I’m no good with engines, and the driver is even worse. I just ride along to keep the old dears happy and make sure no one gets lost during the walking tours.”

“Happy to help if I can,” Randal said.

“I’d appreciate that.” Coach Guy tipped an imaginary hat at Randal, and nodded at Finn before they walked back to the vehicle.

I stepped on Finn’s foot once they were out of earshot. “I don’t like this.”

“Neither do I.” Zandra joined us a few seconds later, her eyes still bleary from getting a glitter shot. “It’s doing us no good to repress our powers when the non-magicals wander in.”

I nodded. If we repressed our natural urges, things exploded. I knew all about that. My magic had been strange ever since I was turned into an enchanted cat. Slowly, I’d been regaining my abilities, but my power was twitchy, so I held off from using it too often, despite the temptation. And right now, my magic wanted to blast out. It acted up at the strangest of times. Usually, when there was trouble around.

“Randal will get the coach fixed,” Zandra said. “Then we can get them out of here. How’s Ajax?” she said to me.

“Sammy and Binky are looking after her. She’s miserable, though. And I’m unsure how we can make things right for her. Nothing I’ve said has gotten through.”

“We’ll keep trying,” Finn said. “What do you always say, Juno? We never give up on an animal.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Finn was far from a perfect angel, but he had a solid gold heart when keeping animals safe.

“We should check on the rest of our residents, to make sure there are no surprises waiting if the non-magicals look around,” Zandra said.

“I’ll do the far end barns where the baby dragons are housed,” Finn said. “Can you handle the rest?”

“No problem. We’re on it.” I trotted away with Zandra, and we spent twenty minutes making sure the animals were content. They had plenty of food to keep them occupied, which made it less likely they’d blast out inappropriate jets of magic if non-magicals got too near or too nosy.

Zandra was shutting the barn door on the rogue cat familiars’ pen when there was a scream. Another swiftly followed it. Then another. Within seconds, piercing wails clogged the air.

“What now? Ajax had better not have blundered over and shot them with butt glitter.” Zandra raced around the side of the barn with me on her shoulder.

My eyes widened as I took in the scene. “Uh-oh! It’s not Ajax causing the hysteria.” “Oh my broomsticks! What are they doing?” Zandra’s mouth dropped open as Adrienne and Joel shambled hand-in-hand toward the coach.

Enjoyed the first chapter? Order your copy today and find out how the mystery ends.

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