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Magic Ain't a Game - RR11 ebook

Magic Ain't a Game - RR11 ebook

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Blast from the past!

Spring equinox was supposed to be a fun time in Black Sands.

The magical Spring Games are being held in town, with all kinds of new talent and tourists pouring money into the economy. Of course, Reg wasn’t invited to participate, but she figured she’d have a good time watching the entertainment, learning more about how magic works outside of fairy tales, and maybe making some coin with psychic predictions for the tourists.

But instead of the promised state of balance the equinox was supposed to bring, a power shift within the community has disrupted everything, Reg is under investigation for magical crimes, and her footing in Black Sands is more precarious than ever.

“Tell me again how this was all supposed to be fun?”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  I love this spellbinding series. I know I’ve said this before, but this series really does get better with each book. The magical crimes investigation had me on the edge of my seat throughout. The excellent storytelling combined with well developed characters and a complex plot make this one great read. —Sandy, Goodreads reviewer

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  Let the games begin. Reg has more to worry about than the games as her past comes back in a unexpected way. I love these magical characters and this series. Looking forward to what comes next. —Kandy, Goodreads reviewer

Like paranormal mysteries? Psychics, witches, fairies, and more! Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author P.D. Workman waves her wand to transport readers to the myth- and magic-filled small town of Black Sands for another paranormal cozy mystery to be solved by Reg Rawlins and her friends.

A self-professed con artist practicing as a contact to the dead, a drop-dead gorgeous warlock, and a psychic cat—what could go wrong?

Fall under Reg’s spell today.

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CHAPTER 1

"You should print up some flyers or brochures for the Spring Games,” Sarah told Reg, as she bustled around tidying up. The older, gray-haired woman opened the planner on Reg’s kitchen island to review her appointments.

“I don’t have anything to do with the Spring Games,” Reg said, frowning and rubbing her sticky eyes. “Why would I print flyers for it?”

“It’s a good time to get those tourist dollars! People come from all over to watch the Games, and they love to get in on the action and get a psychic reading or some other taste of the unseen world.”

“Oh.” Reg nodded. She tripped over Starlight, her tuxedo cat, on her way to the coffee machine. Even though it wasn’t early by Sarah’s standards, it was still before noon and Reg wasn’t quite ready to take on her day. She had never seen the Spring Games. Damon had described them as a sort of magical Olympics. Witches and warlocks from around the world gathered to participate in friendly competition to pit their magical abilities against each other.

Reg herself was still just learning about the unseen world. She’d had various encounters with abilities and magical beings that she had always assumed were only the stuff of fairy tales. But apparently, the magical races were just as real as Reg’s ability to read people. What she had always assumed was a talent for cold reading was, apparently, actual psychic ability. And then there were the ghosts. She had grown up being told that the voices she heard and people she saw were either the results of vivid imagination or mental illness. It had never occurred to them that she simply had sight that others did not. There wasn’t anything wrong with her brain—or not that, anyway—it was just a paranormal ability that most of the world did not possess.

But she still had a lot to learn, and she was looking forward to the Spring Games not just for entertainment value, but to educate herself more in what was possible in the magical world.

“You really should take advantage of the opportunity,” Sarah pressed. “It will be a good time to pick up some more clients outside of Black Sands as well as locals.”

“But if they’re not here, I’ll only be able to meet with them once,” Reg pointed out. The real bread and butter was in repeat clients. Those who came back again and again to learn more about their future or their past, or to communicate with lost loved ones.

“You can do phone contacts. Lots of psychics do phone readings.”

“Oh. I guess I never thought about that.”

“Sure, it’s big business. You even see advertisements for them on late-night TV, running up against all of the dating app commercials.”

“I always thought those were just scams. Another way to get money from lonely hearts.” Not that Reg was averse to a good con. Scams of one kind or another had kept her off the street in her lean years before moving to Black Sands. “They always seemed sort of sleazy.”

“That’s why I didn’t recommend going that way. But getting face-to-face contacts here during the Spring Games and then converting them to phone clients who you talk to once a month or even once a week, that’s good business. And they’ve seen you face to face, so they are far more likely to keep in contact with you, rather than calling a hotline when they have a problem.”

Reg watched the coffee dribble into her mug, eventually pulling the mug out a second or two too soon, impatient to get the mental boost she needed. Coffee dripped onto the counter. Starlight jumped up to the counter to watch the growing puddle.

Reg took a few sips of the hot coffee. “I’ll do something up on my computer then,” she agreed, “and then get it over to the printer to make some copies. What do I do, just… hand them out to anyone I see at the Spring Games?”

“Pretty much. Anyone you talk to or who is sitting close to you. Don’t worry about offending; people are there to see magic. They love to get a little taste of psychic powers for themselves.”

Sarah was Reg’s landlady. She was the one who rented the cottage in her back yard to Reg at a price that she had been able to afford when she first came to Black Sands, penniless but for her haul at the last town she had stopped in to make some ghostly contacts and maybe to leave with a few pieces of jewelry that people didn’t need anymore. Sarah was a witch and lived in the big house at the front of the property, and she had taken it upon herself to help Reg establish her business, keep the cupboards and fridge stocked, and do anything else around the cottage that she thought needed doing.

So far, she had never steered Reg wrong. If she said there was money to be made off of the tourists coming to see the Spring Games, then there was.

Sarah was the only other person who knew about the gems hidden in Reg’s cottage. She knew Reg didn’t need to grow her psychic services business. But she kept Reg’s secret. Reg did not want it to become known that she had valuables secreted away.

“I haven’t seen Damon over lately,” Sarah commented. “Are the two of you… on the outs?”

Reg considered her response carefully. “We were never actually that close… he helped me in my trip to the dwarf mountain, I helped him in his trip to the Everglades… so we’re even now. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the near future. Besides, he’s busy with security for the Spring Games, and I take it that’s a pretty big responsibility.”

“He will be busy with that,” Sarah agreed, puffing out her cheeks and then blowing out the air in a whistle. “It’s really too bad that you couldn’t find that wizard for him. That would have been a big deal.”

Reg nodded. “After fifty years, though, who could have expected to find him?” she said in a neutral tone.

“Ah, well, I know young folk and their magical quests. It doesn’t really matter how impossible they are.”

Sarah, though gray-haired, did not look anywhere near her age. She claimed centuries, though Reg wasn’t sure if she believed it. Sometimes she wondered how much of the time the supposed witches and warlocks of Black Sands were just putting her on, seeing how much she would believe. She’d seen a lot of weird stuff, so she knew it wasn’t all made up. But she couldn’t help wondering if she were just as naive a mark as she had ever targeted herself. Regardless, anyone under sixty, or who looked under sixty, was definitely “young folk” to Sarah.

“I don’t think you’ll see Damon around here any time soon.”

Sarah nodded. “Just as well. The two of you always were a little rocky.”

Reg wanted to like Damon, she really did. He was handsome and funny and seemed like a nice guy. As Sarah said, they had gotten off to a rocky start, with Damon disregarding Reg’s feelings. They had become closer during and after the road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. But Reg couldn’t let go of how he lied to her, not just with words, but by putting visions into her head that were impossible to differentiate from actual experiences or psychic visions. She couldn’t trust him or anything that happened when she was around him.

And there was the fact that as a diviner, he could tell whenever she lied, which, under normal circumstances, was pretty often for Reg.

It was pretty hard to have a successful relationship under those circumstances.

CHAPTER 2

Reg thought that the new flyers for the Spring Games looked pretty good, if she did say so herself. She tapped the edges to the coffee table to square them up and set them down in a pile. She looked at Starlight, who was snoozing in one of the wicker chairs that caught the afternoon sunshine. Starlight opened his blue eye to look back at Reg.

“I think I’ve done pretty well today,” Reg told him. “I got these all put together and printed so I’ll be ready to hand them out at the Spring Games. I could have just sat around all day in my pajamas thinking it was too late to get them done, but I didn’t.”

Starlight closed his eye again and started to purr. His aura was cool colors, relaxed and unbothered by her chatter. He was good at reading her moods and was probably happy that she was calm and relaxed instead of worrying about any of the things that could go wrong.

And there were a lot of things that could go wrong. Reg wasn’t in charge of the Spring Games, she didn’t have any role to play in it, but it could still affect her. If one of the powerful beings that she had encountered recently decided to show up at the Games and disrupt things, it could have long-reaching effects. That wouldn’t be her fault, of course. But she still felt a sense of dread in the pit of her stomach.

Because if one of the powerful beings that she had encountered did show up at the games and cause chaos, injuries, or death, she couldn’t help feeling like she was a little bit responsible. It wasn’t her job to go around banning or binding magical creatures, but if she had the ability and didn’t, then that was sort of like a doctor walking away from a traffic accident, wasn’t it?

But what if she only thought that she might have the ability to stop them but was afraid to put her powers to the test? Or if she were afraid that doing so might harm her, so she didn’t get involved or didn’t put all of her power into it? There were a lot of less powerful and more vulnerable victims out there. If she chose not to lay it all on the line, what did that say about her?

That she was wise?

Or that she was a coward?

The phone rang, jolting Reg out of her dark thoughts. She picked up her phone and looked at the screen. It was Officer Marta Jessup, a friend. Or as much of a friend as a police officer could be to a con man. Jessup was too honest to let Reg get away with much of anything, but did try to look the other way when she could. Reg didn’t know if she were too naive about Reg’s somewhat checkered past to believe that she would do anything really wrong, or if she knew too much about Reg’s history and knew that sooner or later, she would. And she just didn’t want to have to be the one to report it.

Jessup had already been disciplined for losing evidence in a case that she had involved Reg in. She probably shouldn’t have asked for Reg’s help in the first place, but she had, and Reg had been able to locate Jessup’s missing person, but things had gone much further than that. Reg’s involvement always seemed to go a bit beyond what anyone else was willing or able to do.

So their friendship was a fragile one. They tried to spend girl time together and not to get involved in each other’s cases. Each looking the other way and pretending that there wasn’t a conflict.

Reg swiped her phone. “Hey.”

“Are you all set?” Jessup asked.

“Um… all set.” Reg really wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do to prepare for their night out. She hadn’t exactly been given any instructions. “I thought… it was just a celebration. What am I supposed to do to get ready?”

“Oh, it is. Just a… not a party, exactly, but a… celebration or observance. Yes.”

“Then what am I supposed to do? I thought we were just going to get together and… get some drinks, watch the floor show, whatever. I’m not exactly prepared for anything else.”

“You don’t have to prepare anything. Just show up. We’ll show you want to do.”

“Which will be what?”

“Nothing to worry about. You’ve gone to Easter parties before, haven’t you?”

“Easter parties… no, not really. Maybe when I was a little kid, but I don’t remember. Certainly nothing as a teenager or adult. What exactly happens at an Easter party? I don’t suppose we’ll be bobbing for hard-boiled eggs.”

“No, but we might color some eggs. You’ve done that before, haven’t you?”

Reg could remember a couple of disastrous attempts at dyeing eggs using a grocery store kids’ kit. It looked perfectly simple but had always ended up in spilled dye, fights with foster siblings, and tears.

“Not… exactly what you would call successfully,” she said with reluctance.

“Well, maybe there will be egg dyeing. There will be other stuff too. Maybe planting flower seeds or bulbs, prayers and chants, blessings over the upcoming season. Stuff like that.”

“I’m really starting to wonder if this is for me. You know that I’m not into all of the spiritual stuff.”

“You don’t have to be. There will be food. Sarah is bringing some baking, and so is Letticia. I don’t know who else. But that’s always good. And there will be some kind of show for the kids to watch. Just come and hang out. You don’t have to participate in anything that you’re not interested in or comfortable with. Trust me, you know that my powers are pretty… dim, even when compared with the least powerful of witches. I’m not there to do anything, just to participate and have a good time. Celebrate the upcoming spring equinox together.”

“I don’t know. What about clothes? Should I dress up? I didn’t even ask Sarah if there’s some kind of dress code.”

“It isn’t a sky clad ceremony,” Jessup said, her voice teasing, “so clothing is not optional.”

“I know that!” Reg’s face got hot, embarrassed even though there was no one there to see her. “I mean… is it like a ball? Or a garden party? Do I need to wear something pink and frilly? Or is it just casual? Are people going to be wearing blue jeans?”

“I don’t suppose anyone will be wearing blue jeans, but there isn’t any prescribed dress. People will be wearing things all over the spectrum, from dressy casual to formal garden party. What you wear normally, your gypsy skirts and headdress, is perfectly acceptable.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

There were times that Reg wished she had Damon’s gift of divining. She would really like to know whether Jessup was being completely honest or was just trying to calm Reg down. She didn’t want to be handled.

“What are you going to wear?”

“I don’t know. Dress slacks. Some kind of blouse. I’m not a frilly person, so it’s not going to be some kind of Easter froth. Just something… spring colored with nice lines.”

“Okay.” Reg felt a little better about that. As long as Jessup was telling the truth about what she was planning to wear and didn’t show up for the party with thirteen crinolines layered under a Little Bo-Peep dress.

“And should I bring something? I didn’t bake anything. I could boil some eggs for the egg dyeing or pick something up at the bakery.”

“No, the food and activities are all handled. Just bring yourself.”

“So that’s tonight, and the actual equinox thing is during the opening ceremonies of the Games?”

“The opening ceremony of the Games is during the equinox,” Jessup corrected.

“Yeah, whatever. That’s when the equinox is.”

“More or less, yes. Just a couple of days, and we will be experiencing the most balanced time of the year. A very important date on our calendar.”

“Because day and night are the same length.”

“That is one of the measurements we use. But other things come into balance during that time too. Light and dark, good and evil. A sense of peace and security.”

“Seems sort of strange to have a competition in the middle of all of that. Doesn’t it sort of contradict the whole ‘peace and balance’ thing?”

“There are those who believe so,” Jessup admitted. “One thing that the police force will be doing is trying to keep any protests under control and make sure they don’t interfere with the games or people’s private ceremonies.”

“There are protests?”

“There are protests in connection with any big event.”

“They are protesting… what? Spring?”

Jessup laughed. “They’re protesting the Spring Games being held over equinox, like you said. That it’s supposed to be about balance and cooperation and peace, and the Spring Games are about competition and singling people out for awards. But I don’t see why you can’t do both. The games are fun. It isn’t like they take over our lives. We enjoy watching them, seeing people show off what they can do; no one gets really hard-core competitive about it.”

Reg wondered if that were true. She’d seen the real Olympics, and things got pretty competitive there—athlete against athlete and country against country.

“How are they run? The games? Do they split people up by country?”

“Countries are an artificial construct that doesn’t follow magical traditions. The teams or competitors tend to be split more by kinship than by geographical location.”

“So… fairies against fairies, or fairies against pixies?”

“There aren’t a lot of different magical species participating. There will be some fairies, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the pixies take part. But more along the lines of… covens that follow certain traditions banding together and competing against covens that follow other traditions, or that trace their ancestry or heritage back to a particular witch or warlock or family.”

“It’s mostly witches and warlocks?”

“Yes.”

“But no one we know? Sarah isn’t in it?”

“I don’t know who is or isn’t in it, really. Not Sarah. Not as far as I know. She’s not interested in competing, just in enjoying the celebrations.”

Sarah was retired. Sort of. She still used magic, but she didn’t seem to sell a particular service or kind of magical assistance. She helped Reg set wards that would keep Corvin and other dangerous practitioners away. She gave Reg tea or helped to treat her when she wasn’t feeling well. Brought her soup and other food, knowing that Reg tended to just forget about meals and constantly graze on junk food.

“And making cookies.”

“She makes good cookies.”

“I know Letticia does. I’ve had hers before.”

“Yes, she’s a good baker.”

“I can’t believe she can do that in her little wood-burning oven. It must be really hard to keep it a constant temperature.”

“A little bit of magic probably helps.”

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P.D. (Pamela) Workman is a USA Today Bestselling author, winner of several awards from Library Services for Youth in Custody and the InD’tale Magazine’s Crowned Heart award, and has published over 100 mystery/suspense/thriller and young adult books.

Workman loves writing about the underdog. She has been praised for her realistic details, deep characterization, and sensitive handling of the serious social issues that appear in her stories, from light cozy mysteries to darker, grittier young adult and mystery/suspense books.

P. D. Workman does not shy from probing the deep psychological scars of childhood trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Also characteristic of this author, these extremely sensitive issues are explored with extensive empathy, described with incredible clarity, and portrayed with profound insight.
—Kim, Goodreads reviewer