“What's up with that?” I asked, straining my eyes at the line of people approaching our shop.
“Pagan festival this weekend.” Luna shrugged her delicate shoulders, tucking a strand of her wispy blonde hair behind her ear. Clad in a white linen dress and with the highest cheekbones I had ever seen, Luna was all elegance and grace. If I were casting for a white witch in a play, she would fit the part perfectly.
In more ways than looks.
Me, on the other hand? Well, I’m more curvy than Luna with the grace of an elephant, I suppose. This past month I'd darkened the hot pink streaks in my curls to more of a deep lavender color, and white clothes and I do not mix – mainly because I don’t corner well and have a habit of spilling things on myself.
“Friends of yours?” I asked, knowing that as a white witch – yes, a real one – Luna had some roots in Paganism.
“Not that I'm aware of,” Luna hummed, raising a delicate eyebrow.
“How did we not know there was a Pagan festival this weekend?”
Luna shrugged. “It was in the weekly paper.”
“You know I've sworn off the paper after Craig wrote up that article about you,” I said. A month ago Luna had been falsely accused of murder, and even though we'd threatened the local reporter with some pretty inventive curses, he'd still written a fairly accusatory article about Luna. A small retraction printed in the paper after Luna was cleared of all charges had done little to change my opinion of him.
“We still need to think up a curse for him,” Luna reminded me.
“I've got Miss Elva on it,” I said, referring to our resident voodoo priestess. I trusted her implicitly to find the best revenge for this particular situation.
“That should do it,” Luna agreed, pasting a smile on her face, as the line of people grew closer to our shop.
My name's Althea Rose and I, together with Luna, run the Luna Rose Potions & Tarot Shop.
She’s the witch; I'm the psychic.
I can’t help it – being a psychic runs in the blood. My mother is far more prolific than I, flitting from country to country to cater to the famous people she deems worthy of her readings. Oh, she's a diva, that's for sure. Most people would probably say I have a fair share of her attitude, but I like to think that I take after my easygoing musician father, who has happily followed my mother on her travels.
Luna snorted. “Easygoing, my ass,” she murmured, her polite smile never faltering.
“Stop reading my mind,” I grumbled, moving from the white-and-gold upscale beach-cottage elegance of her side of the shop to the velvety purple den of iniquity on my side.
Okay, so maybe “den of iniquity” is taking it a little far. But my tarot card shop was exactly what you would presume one to be – there was even a leopard-print chair tucked away in a corner.
And a skeleton wearing a Ramones shirt was sitting on it.
Pulling out my phone, I reluctantly googled the local paper to find out more about this Pagan festival. Tequila Key wasn't exactly known to be a hot spot for festivals. Or for anything, for that matter.
We are a sleepy little Key, just a speed bump for tourists on their way to Key West. Most people simply pulled to the side of the road to snap a picture by the “Tequila Makes it Better” sign that some genius had erected by the marker off the highway before continuing on down to a livelier Key. Any sort of festival was bound to be the talk of the town.
“The New Crusaders, a revolutionized order of the Pagan druids,” I read out loud, raising an eyebrow at my screen. “Sounds like radicals.”
“Some may call us that,” said a voice to my left, and I jumped. I hadn't realized that someone had slipped past my privacy screen to wait politely at the entrance to my shop.
At least six feet tall and rail thin, a man who reminded me of Gandalf stood at my door. His hair and beard flowed in long gray waves over his forest green ritual cloak, and his feet were encased in butter-smooth leather boots.
That explained why I hadn't heard his entrance.
“Hello,” I said, unaccountably wary.
“Hello. I wanted to see if I could arrange readings for some of my group this weekend.”
“I'd have to check my schedule,” I said, pointedly not reaching for my schedule. Something about this man's vibe was making me reluctant to help him.
“I'll wait,” he said with a smile.
“What's your name?”
“I am Horace, the founding member, and the organizer of this weekend’s festival,” Horace said.
“And what is this festival for, exactly?”
“Why, to celebrate the earth, the sky, the ocean…all the natural beauty of this place. And this weekend is the full moon which also coincides with the equinox. We’ll be celebrating the Mabon festival, to prepare us for the darker time of the year,” Horace said, sweeping his hand around in a grand gesture.
I swear his eyes seemed to light up when he talked about the “darker time of the year.” And what was he doing wearing a ritual cloak outside of an actual ritual? Even I knew that’s frowned upon.
“In Tequila Key? Granted, we've got a stunning coastline, but we are a fairly cluttered little town, if you hadn't noticed.”
“You've some lovely natural spaces outside of town for us to set up in. There’s a private campground that we’ve rented out. You're welcome to come. In fact, I insist,” Horace said gravely.
“I'll get back to you on that one, Horace. I'm sorry, but I have a telephone appointment at eleven. I'll be sure to let you know about my availability this weekend. Cheers,” I said, smiling brightly and reached for my phone.
Horace held my gaze for a moment, his eyes so light a grey that they were almost white, before nodding once and padding silently from my room in his leather booties.
And leaving me with an unsettled feeling as I picked up my phone to call my client.
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