Bonus Spirit Knights Flash!

Cursed Lands releases in one week. To celebrate, I’ve written up a flash piece that occurs directly before War of the Rose Covens, my book in the set. Originally, this scenario was the opening of the book, but it was ultimately not the right place to start, and involves a character who doesn’t appear again. (Missy Evans, Justin’s younger daughter, who is three years old.)

For your enjoyment, an untitled teaser to War of the Rose Covens.

Sophie sat on the bank of a stream with her bare feet in the cool, shallow water. The breeze carried exactly the right amount of warmth to make the stream feel refreshing instead of cold. She wore her jeans with the cuffs rolled halfway up her calves, and a pink cardigan over a white t-shirt.

Beside her, a three-year-old she’d taken responsibility for filled and emptied a pink toy watering can. Missy perched on the damp earth, squatting in her sparkly purple shoes so she could both reach the water’s surface and not touch anything but the toy. She miraculously avoided getting any mud on her purple leggings or pink shirt.

From the spot, they couldn’t see or hear anyone else, and no birds or other small animals made noise. Just water burbling over smooth stones and Missy’s small splashes. Light filtered through the leaves of sycamores and maples, apple trees and birches. Pine drifted on the air, unable to cover the rich musk of damp earth and metallic tang of wet rock.

“Are you going to be my third big sister?” Missy asked.

Four days ago, Sophie had stepped into this world and met Missy and her family for the first time. She still didn’t quite understand why they’d welcomed her and trusted her so easily. Her own mother never trusted her. Missy’s mom had put Missy into Sophie’s arms and thanked her for the respite.

“I don’t know. Do you want me to?”

Missy shrugged with the glorious honesty of a young child. “Mommy likes you. Everybody likes you.”

Sophie chose not to ask Missy’s opinion on the subject. She didn’t need to know. “I’m not used to that. It’s kind of weird.”

“Do you have a mommy?”

The question only seemed out of place if one didn’t know that the other two teenagers in Missy’s family, both Sophie’s newest friends, were both orphans. Missy’s family had taken them in, and they’d brought her.

“Yes, I do. She’s…” Sophie didn’t know how to finish. Her mom had grounded her, then those two teenagers had destroyed her bedroom window to free her. She didn’t think her mother would be happy to see her whenever she decided to return.

“How come you’re living with us if you have a mommy?”

“My mom is mad at me.” For more than just escaping her punishment, of course.

“My mommy gets mad at me too. She yells or makes me sit in the corner.”

Sophie had no ability to imagine Missy’s mom yelling. The woman had the patience of eternity. Her own mom, on the other hand, had plenty of knives ready to bury in Sophie’s heart.

Going home sounded like a great way to turn a good day into the worst one.

“I like your mom. You wouldn’t like mine, though.”

Missy nodded. “I love Mommy. She’s mine.”

Chuckling, Sophie wriggled her toes in the silt. “I love my mom too.” Did she, or did she only say that so Missy wouldn’t ask?

Her mother had forced her to undergo excruciating pain to awaken her latent witch power. The result had underwhelmed Mom, and she hadn’t hid that from Sophie. Her entire coven had treated her like the poor wretch they needed to protect from herself.

And yet, she still loved her mother. Why? Somewhere under all that disappointment, Mom had to remember her little girl. Sophie wanted to go back and live in that past again. Before the disaster.

“Are you sad?” Missy asked without looking at her. “Do you miss your mommy?”

“Yes.” Not the way Missy meant, though. Sophie missed going shopping on a Saturday afternoon before she turned twelve, when everyone still had expected great things from her. Mom had held her close and told her how amazing her future would be.

Then the disaster. Her mom had gazed at her with a fond smile for the last time, told her never to let go, then ripped her aura to shreds. Agony had made Sophie scream and beg for mercy. She’d wanted to die rather than suffer a moment longer.

And then it was done. In only a few minutes, Sophie with the promising future had magically transformed into the least witch who ever witched.

The coven hadn’t found anything meaningful for her to do. Four years of letting them grind her under their heel, inch by inch, had finally ended because her new friends had opened her eyes. She’d renounced the coven and walked away from Mom.

Yet she missed that feeling. She’d known her place and role. They’d placed expectations, and she’d met them.

Her new friends expected so much more of her.

She had no intention of returning to the coven. They didn’t need her for anything. Her new coven of two worked well. They’d get more members eventually, and together, they’d do good, important things.

But Mom…

She only had one mother. No one else would ever take that same spot. Didn’t she owe Mom a chance to adjust? Maybe the separation would make things smoother between them.

Maybe they could reconcile as mother and daughter without the coven stuff interfering.

Maybe Mom deserved a chance to make things right and prove she cared about Sophie more than Sophie’s power.

Sophie hugged her knees. “What do you when your mom gets mad and says a mean thing to you?”

“Say sorry and give Mommy a hug.”

Nodding, Sophie thought she should try.

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