BLOG TOUR. EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY : Here Comes the Witch by Ani Gonzalez
This is my stop during the blog tour for Here Comes the Witch by Ani Gonzalez. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 7 till 20 September. You can see the tour schedule here.
Jewelry designer Kat Ramos has come to Banshee Creek to break the famous Hagen House curse and, in order to do that, she must marry Liam Hagen. A vengeful ghost with a deadly history isn’t part of the deal, and neither is love. Will Kat be able to handle both? Or will the mystery of the cursed Hagen House remain unsolved?
You can find Here Comes The Witch on Goodreads
“Welcome to 666 Main Street,” the striking dark-haired young woman intoned with a bright smile. “Satan’s Own Shopping Strip.”
Katalina Ramos stared at her, confused, and the woman’s smile faded. She was opening one of the tidy brick shops that lined Main street. She was wearing a pink polo shirt with a cartoon ghost logo that read “Banshee Creek Bakery,” and her nametag said “Patricia O’Dare – Owner – Ask Me About Our Vampire Churros.”
Kat, in a silky white blouse and cream-colored trousers, was overdressed by comparison.
But the bakery owner’s outfit was not surprising. Kat was, after all, in The Most Haunted Town in the USA. Everything in this place had a ghost or supernatural theme. She’d spent months researching the town and had found countless ghost stories and urban legends related to it. In fact, the town had been named for the eerie screeching sound made by its barn owls, which the early Scots-Irish settlers confused for the cries of the doomed ban-síde.
The local businesses took full advantage of their eccentric location. Driving in, she’d passed Poltergeist Pizza and a real estate agency that specialized in “slightly haunted” properties. There was also a paranormal investigations group and a Chinese restaurant named after a writer of Chinese ghost stories.
There was nothing about Satan, though.
“I’m not sure people want to shop with Lucifer,” Kat replied carefully. “Not many people would get his sense of style.”
“You’re right,” Patricia said with a heartfelt sigh. “Back to the drawing board. We do need a new marketing strategy for the shopping strip, though.”
Kat nodded in sympathy. As a small business owner, she knew that marketing was a rhymes-with-witch. “The vampire churros sound good. They’re probably a good start.”
That made Patricia smile. “And they taste even better than they sound. They’re spicy chocolate churros with a cream cheese and raspberry filling and they’re our best sellers.” She fiddled with the locks and opened the front door to the bakery. “I like your necklace, by the way.”
“Thanks,” Kat replied, fingering the piece. The tiger’s eye quartz pendant was one of her earliest projects. She’d made it herself at the school workshop when she’d begun her jewelry design training. It was a simple piece—she’d learned a lot since that first year—but it was still her favorite.
The stone was supposed to increase self-confidence and bring good luck. Kat needed both of those things today.
Patricia disappeared into her store, a bright pink, brick row house with a striped awning over the door and a sign on top with the adorable cartoon ghost logo. A sign announced that “Baked Goods are half off after 5 p.m. and all day during Mercury retrograde.”
Nothing could have looked less Satanic.
Or more inviting. Patricia had only just opened and already customers were heading for the door, jostling Kat in their haste. Wow, those vampire churros must be something else.
She eyed the menu taped to the window. All the offerings had fanciful names like Unicorn Horn Cannoli with Rainbow Sprinkles and UFO Pistachio Shortbread Surprise, and they all sounded delicious. Kat was early for her meeting and had some time to kill. The bakery seemed like a perfect place for that. She looked over her shoulder and made sure that her car, a bright yellow hatchback with insane amounts of mileage and New York plates she pretty much loved more than life itself, was safe, then she headed for the bakery.
Let’s face it, she was nervous and could use a raspberry cream cheese vampire churro right now.
She walked in, enjoying the blast of air conditioned air. Summer in Virginia was no joke. It wasn’t as hot as her grandparents’ home in the Caribbean, but it could hold its own in terms of humidity. Her white and cream outfit—an appropriate color combination given the nature of today’s appointment—was fairly cool, but she could still feel herself sweating under the silky fabric. Part of it was nerves, of course. She was in town for what could be the most important meeting of her life.
She could really use a piña colada. And a beach. A beach would be nice.
But she’d have to console herself with an Abominable Snowman Frozen Cappuccino. She walked up to counter and waited while Patricia bagged up some Wicked Stepmother Apple Cider Donuts for a pair of tourists. Kat had already figured out how to tell who was a tourist in Banshee Creek. The residents and shop owners all looked normal, even businesslike, but the tourists all had fangs, or capes, or in this case, t-shirts that announced “My Other Ride is a Tardis.”
She wasn’t in Kansas anymore. That was for sure.
The Tardis couple paid and left, their arms laden with warm donuts and hot coffee. Kat fought to suppress a shudder. Who would drink a hot beverage in this sweltering climate? She was as much of a sugar fiend as the next person, but today she wanted her saccharine fix several degrees below zero.
“One Abominable Snowman, please,” she told the baker. “Um, is that real whipped cream?”
Patricia seemed offended. “Of course.”
Why was she so touchy? Their cream could be as phony as the town’s ghost stories. “Extra whipped cream then, and a vampire churro.”
She nodded, then paused and examined Kat’s face. “Would you like a cinnamon serum shot? It gives you an energy boost.”
Crap, did she look that bad? The past couple of weeks had not been easy, and she was nervous about her meeting. What the heck? She might as well give it a try. At least the cinnamon part sounded tasty.
Patricia added a thick brown liquid to the coffee and put it in the blender. After a couple of pulses, she poured the coffee into a tall coffee cup and handed it over. Kat grabbed the ice-cold beverage eagerly.
The baker smiled. “That should get you through the day.”
Kat took a greedy sip. She could taste coffee and chocolate and cinnamon…and something else.
“What’s in it?” she asked, peering at the creamy foam. She didn’t distrust the town baker, but who knew what they put into their coffee drinks here. She’d already seen a Candy Corn Latte and that thing had colors in it that were not found in nature.
Patricia laughed. “Just cinnamon, sugar …”
Kat took another sip. It was sweet but with a spicy kick. Weirdly enough, it really did seem to give her more energy.
“Lots of extra caffeine,” the baker went on. “And the spell, of course.”
Kat almost spit the drink out. The what?
“Yolanda from the botánica does it especially for us,” Patricia explained handing her a pink striped bag with her churro. “The syrup is made with ingredients that are sacred to the Orisha Changó and to Brigid, both patrons of fire and inspiration. That’s why it gives you so much energy.”
“Sounds intriguing.” That’s right, there was a botánica in town, which was surprising. She’d seen botánicas in the Bronx and in Miami, but in PodunkTown, Virginia? That seemed strange.
Then again, this town specialized in strange.
“Where’s the store?” she asked, swiping her credit card to pay for her purchase. She had at least half an hour before her meeting. She could check out the mysterious Banshee Creek Botánica. It would help calm her nerves.
“Oh, two stores down.” Patricia tore out the receipt and handed it over. “Yolanda’s part of our 666 Main Street rebranding. She owns the hair salon as well as the botánica. She didn’t like the ‘Satan’ part either.”
“I bet,” Kat replied, curious about this botánica place. The not-Satanic part, at least, was reassuring.
“We’ll probably go for ‘A Charmed Shopping Experience’ then.” The baker sighed. “It sounds kind of lame, but at least it’s not Satanic.” She smiled cheerily. “Have a nice day.”
A blast of heat hit Kat as she exited the bakery. She took a long sip of frozen coffee and turned right. According to Ms. Ghostly Cupcakes, the botánica should be right around…
Here. It was right next to Yolanda’s Hair Salon. A small building with a bright yellow awning and an all-seeing eye painted on the window next to a list of services provided: We do readings, cleansings and purifications. Hauntings are our specialty. Exorcisms are extra. Inquire inside.
Kat examined the white storefront carefully, then stepped into the store. The seashell wind chime next to the door tinkled as she stepped in, and her grandmother’s old prayer popped into her head. Protect us Yemaya, Lady of the Salt Waters. Bless us sweet and fearsome mother.
She paused, surprised. The sign over the door said Banshee Creek Botánica, but it didn’t look like any spiritual goods store she’d ever visited with her grandmother in the Bronx. Sure, there were the requisite velones, the colorful candles used for rituals, and herbs stored in cheap plastic bags with homemade labels bearing Spanish names. The shelves were full of the shiny porcelain statues that represented the African Orishas — St. Michael Archangel fighting a dragon, St. Barbara with her sword, and others. Woven baskets held the various collares sacred to the Yoruba deities—blue and white for Yemanya, the Great Mother; red and black for Chango, Lord of Fire; and yellow and white for Oshun, the Goddess of Beauty. The pieces were simple—mere plastic beads strung with fishing wire—but attractive. There were other things too, but she didn’t recognize them since her knowledge of Santeria was limited. Her grandmother was a devout Catholic who seldom visited the local diviners. There was the time Kat’s uncle fell for the next door floozy, and then the time their landlord left a bloody bundle in front of their door to try to kick them out of their rent-controlled apartment, but that was it. As a result, Kat knew the basics, but little more.
But most of the articles in the store were not related to the Caribbean religion. There was a Greek Aphrodite, a Celtic Bridgit, and other items she didn’t recognize. She walked through the store, taking it all in. A wall showed off a selection of faery pictures. The shelves held esoteric books, including paranormal investigation guides, Western mysticism manuals, spiritualism history books, and a whole section devoted to Linda Goodman’s Star Signs series. A poster announced Yoga for Yetis classes at the Banshee Creek Community Center, and she was almost certain that the scary thing behind the counter was a life-sized replica of Fenris the Wolf.
It was very … eclectic. Which, she supposed, was to be expected. This wasn’t a neighborhood store serving local customers. It was a tourist store catering to supernatural aficionados. The diverse offerings should look jumbled and untidy, but they didn’t. The walls were painted in a soothing green color and the polished wood floors and shelves gave the place the look of an established, if slightly eccentric, book store. The disparate items made a strange kind of sense. The poster of Guan Yin, Chinese goddess of … something or other, looked perfectly at home next to the Norse rune display.
Yet something about the store unsettled her. In spite of its tourist trap appearance, it was clearly a serious magical operation. She’d thought the town’s reputation was just a marketing gimmick. She hadn’t expected a full-blown Santería operation complete with military-style atheme knives “For the Warrior Wiccan in You.”
“You are here for the ad, yes?” a cheerful voice asked. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Kat turned and came face-to-face with a tiny old lady with brown skin and curly gray hair. Her eyes were sharp and bright behind neon pink glasses. She was wearing a multi-colored housedress and a plastic apron that read “Yolanda’s Hair Salon.” The apron, like the glasses, was pink.
The beaded necklaces around her neck were pink and maroon with plastic skull pendants.
Oyá, warlike Mistress of the Dead, give us peace.
The words popped into her head, unbidden, and Kat tensed. Despite the old lady’s unassuming appearance, Kat new she was standing before a powerful santera. Anyone who’d grown up the Bronx would know that. Even if you didn’t practice the religion, you knew what the collares signified, and that each color combination belonged to a particular god. The colors in Yolanda’s necklace indicated that Yolanda’s patron was the death goddess Oyá, who was no one to trifle with. Oyá ruled the cemeteries and had a particular fondness for dead warriors. The best you could say about Oyá was that she didn’t like zombies. Unlike its rivals, Voodoo and Palo, Santeria did not approve of the undead. It was, in many ways, a very bourgeois religion concerned mainly with love spells, debt collection, and employment prospects.
And speaking of prospects. “I beg your pardon? I didn’t see any ad.”
The Santera pointed to a bright yellow piece of paper next to the Yoga class announcement. It said: “Store clerk wanted. Good Benefits. Free manicures. Call Yolanda.”
Yellow for Oshún, Kat thought. The color would act as an attractant. Although who needed magic when they had complimentary nail art?
“I’m not here for that,” Kat corrected with a smile. She wasn’t in Banshee Creek for a job. Well, at least not a conventional kind of job. And her new assignment didn’t include free manicures.
“Ah,” the old lady replied, pushing her pink glasses up her nose. The dark eyes assessed Kat intently, as if reading her soul. Kat felt rather like a bug under a microscope.
“Well, you should find what you came here for, then …” Yolanda glanced up, pausing as if waiting for something to happen.
The seashell wind chime tinkled as the store’s front door opened.
Bless us, Yemanya, bring us joy.
Yolanda’s eyes twinkled. “… right about now.”
About the Author:
I write paranormal romantic comedy and cozy mystery (whew, that’s a mouthful!) set in Banshee Creek, Virginia, The Most Haunted Town in the USA. My books feature feisty funny heroines dealing with a host of paranormal critters (ghosts, cryptids, pagan gods…the sky’s the limit) and mysteries. They find magic, love and laughter and readers get to follow them every step of the way.
I love quirky towns with spooky stories, and, thanks to my books, I get to “live” in one year-around. In real life I live in a Minneapolis suburb (which is sadly lacking in ghosts) with my husband and three children and I’m still trying to adjust to the cold.
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Here Comes the Witch. These are the prizes you can win:
– Custom Jewelry (US Only)
– a 25$ amazon gift card (International)