Of Relics and Roses is a modern magical realism urban fantasy. The story follows a coven of witches on a global race to stop a former member from finding an artifact that would give him complete control over every witch alive. When Violet, the leader of the Circle of the White Orchid coven, gets a warning from her adopted sister Bea that their resident psychic had a vision, Violet’s thoughts turn her ex: Fionn Kelly. The former coven member, leader of the House of the Black Rose, and sadistic dark witch has only two goals: win back his wife, and find the Ring of Hecate to harness its power and rule over all witches. The White Orchids follow the legends of the ring across the globe and through sites of historical witch hunts to track it down before Fionn and his acolytes can get there first. But even if they succeed, will Violet have the strength to deny her love for her wayward, misguided husband to do what she knows is right? Or will Fionn and Bea, who have a centuries-old conflict, complete with bloodshed and death, finally destroy each other–and Violet in the process?
Chapter One – Violet
“No, no, no, no, NO!”
My brother’s shouting and the sound of breaking glass snapped me out of my daze with a start, and I spun on my feet, concern mixing with irritation.
“Do I dare ask what that was?” I shouted at him as I headed towards where the cacophony had originated. I rounded the corner into the kitchen and had to spring back for having almost stepped in a mess of glass. Tristan gave me a sheepish look and I returned it with a bottomed out one.
“Why bother having magic if you’re not going to use it?”
He gave me a middle finger and grabbed for a broom that desperately needed to be replaced.
“It wasn’t on purpose. And I just kinda… forgot.” I scowled at him and toed a large shard in his direction.
“Forgot to use magic. Nice…” I turned away with a deep sigh, hoping he would fully internalize my displeasure. But as per usual, my brother had to have the last word.
“You know staring at the door isn’t gonna make her appear,” he said bitterly, barely waiting for me to finish my condescension. Tristan was about one snarky remark away from tasting my magic along with my disapproval. I balled my fingers and attempted a meditative breath before half pivoting and giving him an exaggerated smile.
“Thank you, oh wise one. Just for that infinite wisdom, I will only take half of those mugs out of your paycheck.”
I walked away feeling smug and looked at my watch. Fourteen days, nine hours, and thirty-seven minutes.
“Neither will staring at your watch, Violet,” he added. I could feel the fine hairs on the back of my neck bristle as he chastised me.
“Connard,” I hissed, and I heard his laugh echo off the metallic sink.
“Such nasty words from such a delicate flower.”
Somewhere in the back of my mind, the phrasing sounded familiar, and I turned back long enough to throw a dish towel at him. He laughed and dodged it easily, moving from the kitchen to the other side of the bar in the blink of an eye. Of course he could remember his ability to stop time when it didn’t cost me money. I shuddered with unbridled fury and I felt my eye twitch as he turned away to clean up the mess.
I really should know better. My rage only ever served to delight him in his smug self-righteousness, though a part of me always felt like I had to take whatever Tristan decided to dish out. I had stolen his birthright from him before we were even old enough to know what the word “birthright” meant. It hadn’t been something I asked for. It was our father’s choice. But as I wiped down the tables placed throughout the room, I wondered how much malice his playful words really contained.
I put my fingers to my temples and rubbed them, ducking behind the mahogany bar dotted with water marks, feeling another migraine building as they often did when my pain in the ass sister decided to go off on cross country “adventures.”
I pulled my phone from my pocket and opened my texts. Not a peep from the little princess. This wasn’t unusual but it was infuriating.
Violet: Pick up your damn phone! Also you missed your last two shifts. You don’t get paid if you don’t work. Call me!
Bea was a large part of the reason I hadn’t slept in weeks.
The other reason was an incident that had occurred at The Brew–our coven owned bar–the last time I’d been working. I didn’t do it often. Typically I would assign my acolytes shifts, and then put them on a rotation to cover the shifts that Bea would inevitably blow off. But that night I’d had the misfortune of covering for her myself instead.
It had been a relatively quiet evening, as most of them were, being this far off the highway, and Tristan had been doing inventory in the back. I had taken my eyes off the dining room to search for toothpicks beneath the bar and when I stood back up, I came face to face with three Black Rose members. A male and two females, all dressed in muted tones, and with the signature tattoos of their coven on their arms.
Like an idiot, I tried to play dumb at first.
“Welcome! Can I recommend a drink for y’all?” I put on the ridiculous local accent with the hopes that I might disguise myself. But if there was one person they would never mistake, it was me.
“Don’t play dumb with us, Violet.” The speaker was the girl at the front. A tall, lithe thing with a face so gaunt she may have been mistaken for an addict by any mortal. She had poorly bleached hair and red lipstick that was just a little too orange for her pale skin. I knew this one’s name. Siobhan. She was an Irish witch just like her coven master. The one who’d undoubtedly sent them.
The one whose ring still rested on my finger.
“I’m not sure I understand,” I said, losing the drawl and allowing my natural accent to dance around the English words. Even after centuries of life here in the U.S. I still retained the barest whisper of my French roots. I tapped my nails on the wooden bar and kept my face expressionless. They got nothing out of this if I didn’t engage them. “Why would I play dumb with you?”
If there was one thing I knew about the Black Roses, it was that they feared me as much as they wanted to destroy me. If they were standing in front of me now, in my bar, it meant that he had sent them to terrorize whoever was working. There were many things I could tolerate in life, but the harassment of my coven wasn’t one of them.
The fluorescent and neon lights that illuminated our establishment hummed softly in the background, the tension between myself and Siobhan magnified by the silence. Behind her, the male Rose pulled a chair out of one of the tables and sat, putting his feet up on the tabletop. The blatant disregard pushed me over the edge, and I looked back at Siobhan.
My magic wasn’t like others. It was purposeful over flashy. It was deadly, and they knew it. I set the box of toothpicks down on the wooden bar, taking the time to wipe away a bit of rum that had spilled earlier, hoping beyond hope that they would see me move and run. None of them even flinched.
I slung the towel over my shoulder and sighed. Only at that point did I see Siobhan’s brown eyes flicker in fear, like the last candle dying in a pitch black room.
“Morte.” I exhaled the word and opened my palms to them, releasing thick black and purple mist, and sending it to seek the nearest orifice it could penetrate. In a matter of moments they would be suffocating on my poison, the tissue of their lungs rotting away. From the table behind them, the male Rose stumbled backwards, knocking no less than three chairs in his path.
I didn’t really want to hurt anyone. But Fionn needed to understand that this place was mine, and neither he nor anyone associated with that coven was welcome across it’s threshold.
My misty death grazed the upper lip on Siobhan’s face and she closed her eyes, still unwilling to move.
The word had an almost musical quality to it as he permeated my senses. The smell of citrus and sandalwood and a voice I hadn’t heard in over thirty years broke through the haze as the choking began, and it was enough to distract me from my focus. The black vapor dispersed as though it had been mere cigarette smoke and my eyes searched the room before me for his face. The face of the man who–until thirty years ago–I shared a bed with.
“Enough,” he repeated, stepping forth from the shadows.
At the sight of his face, I wished to rot away my own heart as it pounded—a familiar longing trying to flood my brain—and I forced myself to stare him down. I wanted to melt, to disappear. To be anywhere in the world but here, right now.
The soles of his oxfords made a soft scuffing noise against the concrete floor as he approached. He casually stepped in front of his acolytes and placed his hands against the bar on either side of my hips so that our bodies were nearly touching.
My breath caught in my throat, and I suddenly felt like I was the one suffocating. His ginger hair was shorter than it’d been the last time I’d seen him, and there was a faint mottling under his right sterling grey eye. At five-foot-four, I was forced to look up to speak to him. Fionn was tall, and he carried himself like a dancer with posture that would make a yard stick jealous. His eyes sparkled as he looked at me, and his shirt, as always, was perfectly pressed beneath his black wool coat. I crossed my arms in front of me, hoping to prevent him from coming any closer, but Fionn reached up and pulled my black, plastic rimmed glasses away from my face, studying me.
I hated the way he did that. It was the way he always looked at me and it made me feel small and fragile. I was death incarnate, but when Fionn looked at me, I was nervous, frail, waiting for his command.
“You cut your hair,” he said, studying it.
It was true. The last time I’d trimmed it I decided to “accent avec frange”. The dark wisps draped just below my brows, sitting right on top of my glasses. Fionn used a rough finger to brush them aside.
“Not sure that’s your look,” he quipped, his brogue sounding out of place with his very American language. He had a way of saying things so malevolently yet with such innocuous intonation. Only someone who knew him intimately, in the way I knew him intimately, would have even noticed.
“I guess it’s a good thing I don’t need your permission, then,” I said back, trying to exude more stability than I felt. He smirked, then turned away to speak to his acolytes, leaving me feeling shaken. I used this as an opportunity to hop back over the bar. No distance was too great when it came to Fionn Kelly. If he touched me, it was over. “What do you want, Fionn?” I asked in an assured tone that even I didn’t believe.
He whispered something to his cronies and they turned, begrudgingly exiting through the front door. I wish I could say that made me feel better, but now I almost wanted them to stay. Fionn faced me once more, sliding into a seat at the bar, every movement so casually powerful. He knocked twice on the bar with his knuckle and pointed to a bottle of whiskey, then pulled a cigarette from his pocket and lit it.
“You know you can’t smoke in here,” I said with annoyance. Fionn simpered and blew a lung full of smoke in my direction.
“Hit a little too close to home?” he asked. He sounded so smug with his own cleverness, and it enraged me that some mechanism inside me still wanted to please him. I poured him the drink and slid the tumbler of whiskey across the bar to eliminate the potential physical contact of handing it to him.
“What,” I started again, “do you want?” It took everything in me to speak to him with that kind of confidence and disdain.
I felt an ache between my shoulders and I realized they’d tightened the moment I heard his voice. I willed them to relax, to restore me to my dignity. But weren’t they just fucking disinclined to obey.
“You’re thin,” he stated plainly. “Why aren’t you eating?”
Oh, I don’t know, I thought to myself, maybe because I have a sister that refuses to stay put and an ex who shows up with his thugs at will.
“Juice cleanse,” I replied curtly. I owed him no explanation. No matter how much the fragile pathetic girl inside me wanted to give it.
“Sláinte,” he said, raising his glass and drinking it all in one go. He placed it back on the bar gently, and stared at me once more. “Do you want to tell me why your bitch of a sister is killing my Roses?”
I flinched. It hurt far more than I expected, hearing him say the name. He had dubbed his new coven the Black Roses after me. In our brighter days he called me Rosie, a play on the fact that my name was a flower. When I had him removed from the coven, he told me his heart had gone black and withered like the last flowers in autumn.
I shuddered, remembering the things he’d shouted at me as my sister tossed his belongings out onto the verdant grounds through an upstairs window.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, trying to sound casually confused.
But I made a mistake. I broke eye contact with him as I answered.
He would know I was lying.
“Come on now, Violet. Surely we can at least have a civil conversation?” He hopped up onto the bar, his hands pressing into the ceiling as he leaned forward and looked down on me on the other side. I squirmed at the thought of his shoes on the bar, but as I went to knock his feet out from under him, I felt my entire body go numb with paralysis. Even my lungs ceased to function as he worked his magic against me. He flicked his cigarette away, and jumped down in front of where I was frozen, grabbing my chin roughly. I was helpless to stop him.
“You’re gonna tell Bea,” he spat, “if she ever lays a finger on one of my acolytes again, I’m gonna cut her navel to nose, got it? And I’m gonna make it so, so slow.”
I could feel my airways faltering. If I could have moved, I would have been gasping. Fionn closed the distance between our bodies and placed a rough kiss on my unmoving lips. He pulled away slowly, unsatisfied with the lack of reciprocation. Then he released his spell and I crumpled to the floor at his feet, wheezing.
Slowly, he knelt down and lifted my chin tenderly so he could look into my eyes, something that used to make me swoon. But over thirty years had passed since the last time I’d been this close to him and I felt nauseous, not aroused. He stroked my cheek with his thumb, cool and nimble, and gave me an eerily gentle smile.
“You tell her, or when I’ve finished with her, I’m gonna come back here and pluck out those olive green eyes of yours, and drop them in a pickle jar. That way, you will never be able to look away from me.”
He shoved my chin away and stood, swinging his legs deftly over the bar so he could get to the exit. I tucked my knees in against my chest and didn’t bother getting up until after I heard him leave.
That was a week ago, and that was why I was trying doubly hard to reach Bea.
The sound of Tristan singing while he washed dishes permeated my memories and I fumbled with my cellphone once more. I glanced at the screen and exhaled a sigh of relief. Bea had returned my text.
Bea: Fine, V. You win. I’ll come home. But it’s only because I love you and miss you.
I snorted. As fucking if. In the last three hundred years Bea had never once said she missed me; and the only occasions that had elicited an ‘I love you’ typically revolved around her being drunk and me bailing her out of jail at 2 a.m.
Violet: I’m sure, I replied quickly. Then an unpleasant thought pushed its way to the front of my mind. Let me guess. You took out a Rose?
As soon as the whoosh of me sending it had stopped, the ding of her reply came.
Bea: Can’t I just miss my sister?
Anxiety washed over me as the migraine fully planted itself in my frontal lobe. What had she gotten herself into this time?
The return message I typed a little slower, wishing I could say anything but:
Violet: Historically, no.
But it was a small victory, despite her further complicating this situation. At least she was coming home where I or the other White Orchids could monitor her impulses. As long as she didn’t kill anyone else on the way home, I was certain we could temper the damages.