Home > The Professor Woos The Witch (Nocturne Falls #4)(2)

The Professor Woos The Witch (Nocturne Falls #4)(2)
Author: Kristen Painter

He stuck his head in. “Kaley, I—” She wasn’t in her room.

He walked into his room at the end of the hall and looked out the rear windows into the thicket that was the backyard. Not there either, that he could see. Maybe she was on the back porch. Downstairs he went. Back porch was empty.

A small thread of alarm unraveled in his brain. She had to be in the house. He opened the basement door. A wave of mustiness rose up to greet him. He wrinkled his nose. It was dark and damp and packed to the rafters with boxes of whatever his great-uncle had decided had value. No way she was down there. Not in the dark. “Kaley?”

He got the answer he’d been expecting. Silence.

He ran up the steps and checked all the rooms on the second floor. She was probably taking a shower. But the shower wasn’t running. And she wasn’t in any of the other rooms, which were as filled with stuff as the basement.

That left the attic. It was a big space. The whole third floor. They’d been up there once when they’d first arrived. It had junk in it too, but not nearly as much as the other floors, and unlike in the rest of the house, the junk up there was organized. Also slightly creepy. They’d found a box of animal bones on a shelf next to rows and rows of old glass jars, some empty, some not.

He took a breath. For a girl who fancied herself a witch-in-training, that would probably be the perfect place to retreat from her less-than-understanding father. He snorted softly and went up the last flight of steps.

But his search came to an end when he opened the attic door. The light was off. He highly doubted Kaley would be up here in the dark. He flipped the switch, and the bare overhead bulbs flickered on. The attic was empty.

Kaley was gone.

Pandora Williams dropped her purse and her briefcase on the table by the front door, kicked her shoes off, grabbed her chubby cat, Pumpkin, and headed for the bedroom to change. She gave Pumpkin’s pudgy belly a squeeze. “How was your day, sweetums? A lot more relaxed than mine, I’m guessing.”

She plopped the purring cat onto the bed and opened a drawer to retrieve her at-home clothes: gym shorts and a tank top. She had stacks of each because they were the best way she knew to stay comfy and beat the Georgia heat, which lingered, even in September.

She shucked her pantsuit and changed with a satisfied sigh. It had been a long day. Busy, which was good, always good, but she was beat. Two closings, a brand new listing and a showing. Being Nocturne Falls’ most popular real estate agent had its perks, but kept her moving too. She grabbed the first ponytail elastic she saw and knotted her hair on top of her head. Being a witch? That just gave her a little edge. She understood her supernatural customers much better than any human realtor could.

Pumpkin waddled behind Pandora as she headed to the kitchen. She grabbed a bottle of pinot grigio from the wine fridge, set it on the counter, then spiraled her fingers around the top.

The foil unwound in a long strip, like an apple peeling. Then she curled her fingers upwards. The cork wiggled free with a soft pop, flew across the room and ricocheted off the sliding doors that led to the backyard. She sighed. Her magic had always been faulty at best which was why she only used it for very small things, if at all. At least she hadn’t broken anything. This time.

She talked to Pumpkin, who was now winding around her legs meowing for a snack, as she reached for a glass. “I know you want treats, but a little running around in the yard would be a lot better for you.”

Pumpkin meowed again and pawed at Pandora’s leg.

“Yes, I know. You want food. But you’re fat. And you’re on a diet. If you’d just spend time on the treadmill every morning like I do, this wouldn’t be a problem. Let’s go outside, and maybe you can run off a few calories.”

Pumpkin’s diet had only started two days ago, and it was already clear that the cat thought very little of it.

She pawed at Pandora in one more feeble attempt at treats.

“I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is.” Pandora poured a big glug of wine into a double-walled insulated cup (not the classiest thing to drink wine out of, but she was home, wearing ratty gym shorts and a bedazzled tank top missing half its rhinestones, and who cared anyway), then headed for the back porch. She flipped the switch for the ceiling fans but left the lights off. The sun had just started to set, and there was still plenty of light to see by.

Besides, this was her favorite time of day, that last hour or so before the world went completely dark but the air was still sweet with the scent of flowers and grass. Everything just seemed to quiet down and breathe easy as the day slipped into night. Twilight was enjoyed by a lot of supernaturals, not just witches, but her witchiness made her especially appreciative of nature.

She stood at the sliding door, waiting for Pumpkin. “C’mon, poky cat.”

Pumpkin plodded out onto the patio, and Pandora shut the sliders. The orange butterball made it about three steps before she flopped down, rolled over and lay with all four paws in the air. The ceiling fans ruffled her tummy fur.

Pandora shook her head and snorted softly. “Pumpkin, you’re a mess. That is no way to burn calories.” She bent and scratched the cat’s belly. “Mama loves you, baby. We can both be a mess together.”

She sat down on the glider and kicked her feet up on the rattan coffee table. Her yard was looking good thanks to the nights of work she’d put in weeding the flower beds and adding a flat of yellow and purple petunias.

A long sip of wine and she settled a little deeper into the glider. Pumpkin hadn’t moved. Pandora reached for the bag of treats she kept on the side table.

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