Wednesday, May 22nd, is release day for An Ill Wind, the sixth book in the Witches of Canyon Road series. This is Tony Castillo’s book — he was a secondary character in several of the previous novels, but now he gets his own story. The heroine is the daughter of a couple from one of the Witches of Cleopatra Hill novels…but I’ll let you read and figure out who her parents are. 🙂
“Mom, we’re here!”
It felt strange to be saying “Mom” with Cassandra’s cool green eyes watching him, but it wasn’t as though he could call his mother by her given name. He didn’t want to think what her expression would be if he strolled in and casually referred to her as “Sophia.”
No reply to his announcement, and he frowned. Well, it was a big house. Maybe she was in the kitchen, working on getting the refreshments ready. His mother tended to get more elaborate than she really needed to when it came to having company over.
“Come on back,” he told Cassandra. “She’s probably in the kitchen.”
A brief nod was her only reply, but she followed him as he went past the spotless living room, so formal that he still wondered whether anyone actually set foot in there, and the equally elegant and tidy dining room, and on into the family room, which had always felt like the heart of the house to him. The books had been kept all this time in a closet in that room, one whose door had been concealed by a spell of protection that Miranda, the prima, had put on it.
Except now the door yawned open, showing a dark rectangle in the pale beige wall. Tony barely had a chance to register that alarming detail before he realized there was something else out of place about the room. His mother was lying on the rug, a silver tray still clutched in one hand and the sandwiches that had been arranged on top of it scattered all around her limp form. Her eyes were wide open, staring in terror, although at what, he didn’t know.
Even as Cassandra made a shocked sound, he hurried forward and knelt next to his mother’s limp form, then reached for her wrist. It took a couple of tries — maybe because his fingers were shaking so badly — but then he found a pulse. Faint, yes, but at least it was there.
“Is she…?” Cassandra asked.
“She’s alive,” Tony replied. He couldn’t exactly allow himself to be too relieved, though, because the pulse he’d found was thready and weak, arrhythmic. With his free hand, he reached into his back pocket to retrieve his phone. He needed to call Yesenia, the Castillo clan’s healer, and then his father.
As he pushed the entry for Yesenia’s phone, Cassandra moved past him to the open closet door. She looked inside, her full mouth set and grim. “The books were stored in this safe?”
The phrasing of the question struck home, and he sent the de la Paz witch a sharp glance. “They’re gone?”
“Yes. All of them. This isn’t good.”
No, it wasn’t. Right then, however, he had to focus on his mother’s condition. Whoever’d done this was long gone — they hadn’t passed any cars coming out of the gated neighborhood, and there hadn’t been that many people driving down from the mountain, either. That seemed to indicate the theft had to have occurred at least fifteen minutes earlier, plenty of time for the perpetrators to disappear.
“Tony?” Yesenia’s voice came through the phone. “Is something wrong?”
“Yes,” he said, his voice tight. The sight of his mother lying on the floor like that had unnerved him even more than the theft of the books. She was always so put together, so in control of everything around her, that it didn’t seem possible for her to be slumped there with her hair partly in her face and her blouse coming untucked from her wool slacks. “There’s — there’s been an attack at the house. My mother’s alive, but she’s in a coma or something.”
“I’ll be right over. Fifteen minutes at the most. Hang on.”
The healer ended the call there, but that was okay. They didn’t need to waste time in chitchat, and Yesenia knew how to get moving when the situation called for it.
Cassandra still lingered by the open closet door, fingers moving along the frame without touching it.
“Do you feel something?” Tony asked. She hadn’t mentioned possessing that sort of ability, but sometimes witches and warlocks had a secondary talent to complement their primary gift. Maybe she could sense who had come that way, what kind of magic they’d used.
“A little.” She stopped there and pulled her hand away, crossing her arms over her chest. “I’m not that good at it, but sometimes I can feel it when magic has been used, get a little sense of what sort of talent or spell was in play.”
With some reluctance, he got to his feet. Maybe he should have remained kneeling by his mother, but she sure wasn’t going anywhere, and he couldn’t really do anything to help her except be here and keep an eye on her in case something about her condition changed.
Cassandra’s full lips pressed together, and she looked away from him. Tony couldn’t be absolutely sure, but it seemed almost as though she was a shade or two paler than she’d been when they first entered the house. “Something dark. The residue is….” She pulled in a breath, nostrils flaring in distaste. “It’s like a slime trail left behind by a snail or a slug or something. Whoever came here, they were definitely up to no good.”
“Well, that’s obvious enough,” Tony returned. After the words left his mouth, he realized he probably should have been a little more diplomatic…right before he decided he really didn’t care. His mother had just been attacked, for God’s sake. Being polite was the least of his worries.
To his surprise, Cassandra didn’t snap back at him, but only looked thoughtful. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s not my primary talent, so it’s not going to give me all the information I want or need. I’m just….” The words trailed off, and he saw the way her hands clenched as she uncrossed her arms. “I wish I could do something else, but I can’t.”
Neither could he. Since any words of reassurance seemed to have fled him, about all he could do was shrug.
The books were gone. And what they were supposed to do next, he had no idea.
An Ill Wind is currently available for pre-order. If you’d like it delivered automatically to your phone or app on release day, buy it here: