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Emma Adams

Bewitchments & Bookworms: A Library Witch Mystery Book 11 (Paperback)

Bewitchments & Bookworms: A Library Witch Mystery Book 11 (Paperback)

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Book 11 of : A Library Witch Mystery

Rory Hawthorn knows her family's magical library contains an endless array of secrets, but even her fellow biblio-witches little expect a corridor that’s been missing for over two decades to suddenly materialise again.

They don’t expect it to put a curse upon Rory’s aunt Candace, either.

With the library once again at the centre of a potential disaster, can Rory help her family unravel the mysteries of the lost corridor and break the curse, or will she be the next to succumb?

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“Not another one!” Aunt Adelaide tipped the book-wyrm off the pages of a large textbook and into the wastepaper basket.

Sylvester the owl came swooping down, stuck his beak into the basket, and grabbed the wriggling book-wyrm before swallowing it whole.

“Ugh,” I said. “I didn’t need to see that, Sylvester.”

He belched loudly. “You’re welcome.”

Shaking my head, I turned to my aunt. “Where are they all coming from? There isn’t another nest… is there?”

We’d barely got rid of the last infestation of paper-eating nuisances that had attempted to gnaw their way through the reference section. This one, however, had come from the box of returned books. Bracing myself, I went to check.

“It’s empty, don’t worry,” Aunt Adelaide said over my shoulder as I peered into the box. “Estelle took the last of the returns upstairs, but if there’s a nest, we’ll have to deal with it when she’s back. One of us should watch the desk, and Cass is… well, I don’t know what she has up on the third floor, but it’s making a racket.”

“Great.” Cass had probably brought in another magical monster of some sort. “And Aunt Candace?”

“In her room, no doubt with a magical soundproofing spell on the door. She’s working on a new project.”

Typical. If nothing else, my family managed to keep life interesting. “I can watch the desk while I repair the book,” I offered. “Though I don’t know that spell yet…”

“What use is that?” Sylvester remarked. “Did you plan to use superglue instead?”

“That’s enough, Sylvester,” said Aunt Adelaide. “Sorry. I ought to have already taught you that spell, Rory.”

“I’ve been lucky not to need it.” Generally, people had more sense than to damage the property of my family’s magical library, but page-eating parasites were an obvious exception. I pulled out the notebook and pen I kept in my pocket. “I can add the word to my Biblio-Witch Inventory afterwards.”

Aunt Adelaide nodded and flipped the textbook open, revealing the page the wyrm had chewed through. “Write the word repair and picture the page as whole in your mind’s eye.”

Sylvester closed his eyes and began snoring loudly. I hadn’t a clue whether he was genuinely asleep or just being as disrespectful as usual, so I ignored him as I opened a fresh page in my notepad. Then I leaned on the desk to press the point of the pen to the paper. A tingling sensation rushed to my fingertips, and as I wrote the word repair on the page, the open textbook in Aunt Adelaide’s hands began to shimmer. Ripples passed across the page, and when they faded, the paper was smooth, as if it had never been damaged.

“There we go.” Aunt Adelaide beamed, holding the book up to inspect it. “Good as new.”

“I’ll write the word in my Inventory.” I pulled out the thicker book I kept in my pocket, which contained each word—or spell—I’d learned. Once I’d written a word down, all I had to do was tap that word with my fingertip to access its power any time I wanted. Handy, and one of the major perks of being a Biblio-Witch. My family was unique in the magical world, at least according to my Aunt Adelaide, and I’d seen no reason to doubt her.

“I’ll return this to where it belongs.” Aunt Adelaide closed the textbook. “Can you watch the desk until then?”

“Of course.” While she carried the textbook to one of the staircases leading to the upper floors, Jet, my familiar, fluttered over to land beside me on the desk. “Hey, Jet. I thought you were with Aunt Candace.”

“She won’t let me into her room, partner!” he chirped.

“Weird.” Aunt Candace must have been really into her new manuscript if she’d even shut out my familiar. Jet’s liking for flying around and listening for gossip had caused my aunt to recruit him as her partner in crime, as she was keen to find new ideas to incorporate into her books. While I didn’t necessarily like the idea of her monopolising my familiar and using him to spy on people, he seemed happy enough with the arrangement, and he was such a chatterbox that I couldn’t work with him hovering over my shoulder all the time.

“Hardly,” Sylvester said without opening his eyes. “She gets like this sometimes. You weren’t here when she was working on her ten-volume fantasy epic.”

“I didn’t even know about that one.” My aunt had a pen name for every day of the week, and the rest of us weren’t allowed into her room when she was immersed in the process—nor were our familiars.

Sylvester was supposedly a familiar, too, though he stretched the definition a little. As the embodiment of the library itself known as a Genius Loci, he’d taken on the form of an owl for reasons known only to himself. Possibly because it meant he got to take more naps, though he didn’t technically need to sleep.

At least I had company while I watched the desk. My family and I generally took it in turns to keep an eye on the doors, since you never knew who might show up at the library. Sometimes, it was a customer. Sometimes, it was my boyfriend, Xavier, the town’s Reaper. And at other times, it was less pleasant company, such as Evangeline, head of the vampires. She hadn’t dropped by in a while, but she was my point of contact for updates on the situation with the Founders—a group of dangerous vampires who I’d recently ticked off even further by getting several of them arrested. Oh, and setting one of their houses on fire.

Let’s just say the vampires and I had a complicated relationship, not least because my best friend had become one of them upon her own induction to the magical world, while my dad’s history with the Founders had landed me in hot water on more than one occasion. More recently, I’d received a threatening note from one Mortimer Vale—the Founders’ leader, who was supposed to be in solitary confinement in jail—and unfortunately, Evangeline was my only hope for figuring out how he’d managed to send me that letter. Nobody but her—except possibly the Grim Reaper—had the contacts necessary to find out that kind of information.

Luckily, no vampires showed up at the library that morning, and I was able to help each customer find the books they wanted without too much trouble. Estelle eventually came downstairs, covered in what looked like sawdust, when I was directing an overeager student looking to get ahead on his dissertation to the reference section.

Like the rest of us, my cousin had bright-red hair, and she shared her mother’s curvy figure and friendly smile, though her expression was somewhat strained at the moment. “Hey, Rory.”

“Hey. It’s that way,” I added to the student, pointing him to the area behind the front desk. “Just keep walking, and you’ll find the right section. Estelle, why are you covered in sawdust?”

My cousin walked around the desk. “Someone accidentally wandered into the Unfinished Section.”

“The what?”

“Didn’t I already tell you about that?” She tipped some sawdust off the sleeve of her cloak into the wastepaper basket. “It’s one of those doors. The ones we’re not supposed to open without checking first. Anyway, some bright spark left it unlocked. I’d guess Aunt Candace.”

“By ‘unfinished,’ what do you mean?” I asked. “Are the books half written, or…?”

“Some of them are.” She joined me behind the desk, unintentionally scattering more sawdust on Sylvester’s feathers, which prompted him to give a disgruntled snort. “The section comprises books at all stages of the process. There are unbound pages, some without any writing on them—and sometimes, even the paper isn’t finished.”

I blinked. “You mean, it’s still trees?”

“Trees?” Sylvester opened his eyes. “You have trees in the library and didn’t tell me?”

“You know everything that’s in here, Sylvester,” Estelle said. “In fact, you know the library better than all of us do.”

“Now, that doesn’t mean I can instantly recall every nook and cranny,” he said around a yawn. “Having a vast intellect comes at a price.”

“My heart bleeds.” I rolled my eyes at him. “Trees in the library. And there I thought I’d seen it all.”

Estelle gave a rueful smile. “No such thing in here. For better or worse.”

That was true enough. The library contained an endless array of surprises, and even my family hadn’t found all of them yet. My grandmother, its creator, had neglected to leave a full list of the library’s contents upon her unexpected death, and while Aunt Adelaide had stepped smoothly into the role of head librarian, “helped” by Aunt Candace, that didn’t mean she knew all its secrets. Amongst other things, the library contained an invisible floor, a vampire in the basement—and, as I’d just found out, a room full of trees.

“Oh yeah—your mum found another book-wyrm,” I told Estelle. “It chewed through a book.”

“Another one?” Estelle groaned. “Where?”

“Showed up in the returns basket, I think,” I said. “I fixed the book, and she went to take it upstairs, but that was a while ago.”

“You don’t think she needs our help, does she?” Estelle asked. “Which section?”

“Sylvester?” I’d forgotten whereabouts the book had originally come from, since the library had a lot of areas to keep track of, even if you didn’t count the doors that randomly appeared and disappeared on their own schedule.

The owl helpfully closed his eyes again instead of answering.

“I’ll find her, partner!” Jet squeaked.

“Thanks, Jet.” I gave the owl a pointed look. “See? At least one of us is useful.”

“Now, I take exception to that,” Sylvester said. “I got rid of your book-wyrm for you.”

“All you did was eat it and then take a nap.” Embodiment of the library or not, the owl could be downright lazy sometimes. “Let me know if she needs our help, Jet.”

“Yes, partner!” He took off, flying towards the balconies overlooking the ground floor. Three stories packed with shelves peered down at us, while a hidden fourth floor had gone missing years ago, and nobody had ever been able to find it since.

“The disrespect.” Sylvester sniffed. “I shall take my leave.”

He took off with a loud hoot, and I stepped back to avoid his wings clipping me in the face.

Estelle, meanwhile, tilted her head to look up at the balconies. “I hope she’s okay.”

“She usually is,” I said. “There’s nothing in here she can’t handle.”

In theory. As I lowered my gaze from the balconies, Aunt Candace cleared her throat loudly. My other aunt stood beside the reference shelves, her usual notebook and pen floating at her side. Another pen stuck out of her tangled red hair, and she wore a pair of eye-wateringly pink leggings.

“Hey, Aunt Candace,” I said. “I thought you were busy writing.”

“I found this—” She held up a wriggling wyrm by its tail—“in my room. It chewed several holes in my manuscript.”

“What?” Aunt Candace’s room wasn’t anywhere near the place where Aunt Adelaide had found the other book-wyrm as far as I was aware. “Your sister found one in the returns box too.”

“I won’t have them destroying my work,” she fumed. “I want them gone!”

“We’ll have to wait for Aunt Adelaide,” I said. “She went to take the book back to its shelf, but I don’t know why it’s taking her so long.”

“I imagine that’s obvious,” she said. “She found more of them.”

“What?” My heart sank, and when she made to return to the living quarters, I called her back. “Don’t you want to help get rid of them? You don’t want more of them getting into your research cave, do you?”

She gave me a withering look. “That’s not necessary. I’ll put a spell on the door to keep them out.”

“That won’t help the rest of the library.” Not that that would necessarily sway her to help us. “Come on. You’re already downstairs. Unless you’d rather watch the front desk instead?”

“Certainly not.”

“Or deal with the Unfinished Section?” Estelle suggested.

“That place is still there?” Aunt Candace wore an intrigued expression. “I thought you got rid of it.”

“There’s no getting rid of anything in here, as you well know,” said Estelle.

I lifted my head when Jet came zipping back into view. “She’s on the third floor, partner! The wyrms have infested a whole shelf!”

Oh no. “Where’d they even come from?”

“They breed in old books,” said Estelle, her face falling. “It was probably one of the shipments we got in earlier this summer… though I really thought we checked them all for contamination.”

“They’re sneaky creatures,” said Aunt Candace. “I wonder if I can incorporate them into my next book.”

“If you don’t help us get rid of them, that might end up being literal,” I said. “Jet, how many of us does she need?”

“As many hands as possible!” he answered.

If Aunt Adelaide was struggling, the situation must be bad. “I can watch the desk… or ask Cass.”

“Good luck with that,” said Aunt Candace. “If you want a more efficient way to deal with those wyrms, you can always ask her to set her animals on them.”

“Definitely not.” Cass’s menagerie of magical monsters was more likely to run around terrorising the public or eating the books themselves than to deal with our pest problem.

“She won’t want to listen to us fighting book-wyrms either,” Estelle said. “I’ll see if I can convince her to come downstairs.”

“Jet, can you stay here until then?” I asked the little crow, who chirped an affirmative. “Come on, Aunt Candace.”

Estelle walked ahead towards the stairs, while Aunt Candace gave a dramatic sigh and then followed us. I was already having second thoughts; while my aunt was accomplished enough at magic, she was so absent-minded that having her around in a crisis ran the risk of her writing an account of said crisis in her notebook instead of doing anything to help. Her notebook and pen were a constant presence, floating at her side as we climbed the spiralling stairs.

At the third floor, Estelle made for the closed door that led to Cass’s favoured corridor. I knew she kept a manticore in there, among other things, but the ominous scuttling noises in the background came from elsewhere.

As we approached the location of the noise, I pulled out my wand. While my Biblio-Witchery was more effective, I suspected I’d need at least one hand free. Seeing Aunt Candace attempt to sneak away, I waylaid her. “Come on, don’t run off. We need your help.”

“Why not ask her instead?” She jerked her head towards the open door to the Magical Creatures Division. 

Cass stood with her customary scowl on her face, her red hair pulled into a topknot and her clothes as rough as one would expect of someone who spent her time on hands and knees, dealing with magical monsters.

“Be reasonable, Cass,” Estelle was saying to her younger sister. “We need someone to watch the desk, and Sylvester has taken off in a sulk.”

Cass pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Did Rory do something to annoy him?”

Well… yes, but that’s not the point. Whenever we left the owl in the customer-facing side of the library, he inevitably caused trouble.

“Would you rather help with the wyrms?” asked Estelle. “They even got to Aunt Candace’s books. There’s no telling where they’ll end up next.”

At that moment, a loud crash sounded from elsewhere on the third floor, like a bookcase falling over. Oh no.

“Bet she’s thrilled.” Cass sighed. “Fine, I’ll watch the desk, but you owe me.”

“Thanks,” Estelle said. “I’ll pay you back by keeping the wyrms out of your animals’ cages.”

“That’s no reward. In fact, you can feel free to feed them to my manticore if you want to risk opening the door to his cage.”

“I’ll pass, thanks.”

While Cass left her corridor, I continued to move in the direction the crashing noise had come from. I kept my wand at the ready, one eye on Aunt Candace.

The wand had once been my dad’s, though he’d given it up when he’d moved away from the magical world and had hidden it in the library. When I’d found the wand—or it had found me—I’d known the library was capable of far more than I’d realised. One would think that it wouldn’t have an issue rejecting pests, but I guessed book-wyrms were one problem my grandmother hadn’t foreseen when she’d designed the place.

I’d already faced murderous vampires, time-travelling werewolves straight out of my aunt’s novels, and even a full-grown dragon. A few wyrms wouldn’t be a problem. Right?

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