Excerpt: The Lightning Moon

The fire flickered low in the grate, the wood smoking only slightly, charred and burnt almost completely to ash. Quinn picked up the remote and switched the television off. He clicked on the lamp and gathered up his writing paper and pen. It had been too long since he’d last heard from Michael; his previous three letters had gone unanswered, and the last had been too brief, a three-line postcard saying that he was busy, he was okay, and he’d tell Quinn all about it when he saw him—exactly when that would be, probably not even Michael knew.

Today of all days, he needed his brother, needed to connect with him any way he could. So he wrote, because that was all he could do. God knew if the address he had was still current. It would be so much simpler if Michael were a normal human being, someone who had a laptop or a phone, at least, but Michael didn’t hold with all that. When he travelled, he said, it was to get away from his life. The last thing he wanted was for his life to start following him. So Quinn wrote.

It had been five years since George’s death; five years to the day, and when Quinn had woken up that morning, he’d almost forgotten. Michael had never liked George, Quinn knew. The Harpers had hunting blood in them, and the thought of his little brother marrying a were drove him mad. Quinn remembered his grandfather, but only just. Still, he knew enough to know that, had Jules Harper still been alive, George would have taken a silver bullet in the heart the minute he crossed their threshold. But Michael understood heartbreak all too well, and he’d been there after George died, had for a while been the only reason Quinn was able to get up in the morning, the only reason he didn’t just drive into town and jump off the suspension bridge.

It didn’t hurt quite so much anymore—the wounds had healed, his heart hardened into scar tissue—but Quinn still needed his brother, needed someone to talk to, to hold on to, just for today.

Once the ink was dry, he folded the letter up, pushed it into a small envelope, and set it on the table to wait until he went down to the post box in the morning. Maybe he wouldn’t even send it, he thought. Michael probably had his own shit to deal with, if his lack of replies were anything to go by.

But come morning, he grabbed the letter from the table and tucked it inside his coat pocket as he left the house, slipping it into the post box on his way to work.

Work was dull. Work was always dull these days. The shop was too quiet, and he spent most of the day dusting the shelves and playing solitaire on the computer next to the till. The recession had hit pretty much everyone, witches included. His usual customers were too busy just trying to feed themselves and pay the rent to think about spending their hard-earned money on fancy crystal orbs and silver charms.

He sighed, looking around him. They’d barely sold anything all week. The shop was going under, Quinn knew, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Gary decided to call it quits any day now, to just sell up and move on. He didn’t know how he’d cope without his job; it was hard for anyone to find employment just now, but it would be even harder for him, he knew. A quick background check would show he was a widow to a were, and that would be that. Not a lot of people trusted weres, or any magical folk at all, come to that, and sympathisers were just as bad. These days they weren’t supposed to discriminate, but everybody did.

He picked up a lump of amethyst, tossed it from one hand to the other. George had bought him amethyst once when he was sick, had placed it beneath his pillow to help him heal quicker. Most weres weren’t into all that stuff, like most people, but George’s mother had been a witch, and he had known how to work the simpler magic, even if complex spells were miles beyond his ability.

The bell rang as the door was pushed opened, and a young woman flung back the hood of her cloak, shaking loose her dark curls. She smiled at Quinn, and he smiled back. She didn’t ask for his help, and he watched her as she browsed the bookshelves. Eventually she picked out a heavy leather-bound diary, a slightly pricey Book of Shadows, and he packed it into a bag and wished her a good day.

“It’s going to rain,” she told him as she pulled up her hood again. “Can you feel it?”

He shook his head. He couldn’t feel it.

“Well,” she said, “it is. And when it’s over, I think we’ll all feel much better, don’t you?”

He agreed, just to be polite, and watched her leave with a bemused smile on his face. “Witches,” he chuckled to himself once the door had closed, and set about tidying the bookshelves.

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