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Emma L Adams

Love Spells & Late Fees: A Library Witch Mystery Book 5 (Paperback)

Love Spells & Late Fees: A Library Witch Mystery Book 5 (Paperback)

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Book 5 of : A Library Witch Mystery

It's Valentine's Day in Ivory Beach, and Rory's family's magical library is ready for the occasion. Rory is hoping for a visit from a certain Reaper, but instead finds herself drawn into another mystery when the person hired to play Cupid and deliver Valentine's cards to the town's citizens is found shot by one of his own arrows.

On top of that, a blind dating craze goes sour, with tempers rising and curses flying left and right. Can Rory get to the truth in time to stop the mayhem from engulfing the library, too, or will it all end in disaster?

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“Sylvester, stay away from the balloons!” shouted Estelle.

A heart-shaped balloon floated past, pursued by the huge tawny owl. With less than a week to go before Valentine’s Day, bright pink ribbons adorned the library’s shelves and festooned the balconies, and a bright box for Cupid’s Card Delivery Service sat beside the desk at the front. 

As the balloons ascended past the four storeys of towering shelves, Sylvester’s beak pierced one of them with a deafening bang, and heart-shaped glittering pink confetti rained down on our heads.

“Those are supposed to be decorations,” Estelle said in exasperated tones.

“They’re also an unholy abomination.” Cass pulled a handful of confetti out of her long curly red hair and dumped it on the desk.

“You might at least pretend to be supportive,” her sister said. “Can’t you at least help me put the balloons away?”

Another bang came from above our heads, and Sylvester flew past, cackling. 

I pulled out my wand and cast a quick levitation spell, sending the balloons flying upwards and away from the owl.

Sylvester, however, had other ideas. As the levitation spell caught the balloons, he spread his wings, generating an air current that sent several of them floating out of the open window.

“No!” Estelle cursed and ran for the door, throwing an angry gesture at the owl. I reached the door first, pulling out my Biblio-Witch Inventory.

Wands were one way of casting magic, but my family had another—the power of words. I reached for the page and tapped the word fly with my fingertip, and at once, the balloons changed direction and soared back towards the library. 

Estelle caught up to me, breathless, and added her own magic on top of mine. As the balloons floated back into the lobby, Sylvester descended on them again. 

“Stop that!” Estelle said. “Leave the balloons alone. You’re making a complete mess of the place.”

“I’m simply ridding the world of those monstrous things,” he said. “Nobody wants pink heart-shaped balloons or confetti.”

“For once we’re in agreement,” said Cass. 

“Cass, not everyone agrees,” said Estelle. “You kept saying we needed to fill our social calendar.”

“Not with this kind of sappy nonsense,” said Cass. “It’s making me want to give up dating altogether and move to live at the North Pole.”

“Then you can organise your own Singles Awareness night instead if you like,” Estelle said to her sister. “Or you can take charge of wrangling that menace of an owl.”

The door to the library opened and a tall guy wearing a pair of bright pink wings walked into the library. Harris Jones, aka the library’s very own Cupid, carried a fake bow and arrows strapped to his back which he wore while delivering cards. Only a broke student would suffer the indignity of dressing up in a silly costume to make a bit of cash, but the new service proved surprisingly popular. People from all over town came here to leave their notes for Cupid to deliver to the objects of their admiration, and every day, he’d come and collect the letters and take them to their intended targets.

“Am I likely to get chased again today?” Harris asked Estelle. “Yesterday, Roy James got mad at me and chased me all the way down the high street. I had to hide in the costume shop for half an hour, pretending to be part of the display.”

“Sorry,” said Estelle. “Occupational hazard of the job, I’m afraid, Harris.”

He gave the bucket of cards a rueful shake and walked out of the library. “I wish these came with warning labels, so I knew who was likely to blow up at me. Still, this pays better than delivering newspapers.”

The door closed behind him, and Estelle tutted. “Poor guy.”

“He must have known what he was getting into,” said Cass. “Not everyone can have it as perfect as Rory, for instance.”

I rolled my eyes. Cass and I had never exactly been the best of friends, but she’d begun to warm to me a little in the last couple of months. When I’d first moved to the library, she’d maintained a steady grudge against my dad for walking out on the magical world to marry my mother, but she seemed to have accepted that I’d be sticking around for the long haul. 

“My life is not perfect,” I said. “Are you forgetting the reason we even have those balloons is because I accidentally set them loose from that second-floor corridor along with a plague of ghosts?”

The ghosts, thankfully, were long gone, but the balloons hadn’t always been cute, heart-shaped and filled with confetti. When we’d originally found them, they’d been shaped like clawed and winged monsters, and while Estelle had transformed them into a more innocuous design, I wouldn’t put it past Aunt Candace to sneakily turn them back into monsters when nobody was looking.

“Whatever,” said Cass. “You’re dating the Reaper.”

“I am,” I said. “He’s also coming over to dinner later this week, and I think he’d be a little freaked out at all the pink confetti.”

Cass snorted. “Why’s he coming to dinner here? We’ve already met him. If anything, it’s his turn to invite you to have dinner with the Grim Reaper.”

“You know the Reaper doesn’t actually need to eat, don’t you?” I pointed out. 

“Then why’s he bothering to come here?” said Cass.

“Because it’s polite,” I told her. “And because Aunt Adelaide kept asking me to invite him.”

In truth, I’d rather go on a date with him alone than put him through the indignity of a family gathering. He’d already met my family, though having all of them in the same room at the same time was a rare occurrence. Perhaps oddly, Xavier was the one who insisted on doing all the typical ‘dating’ stuff despite being further from the land of the living than I was.

“You’d better hope he doesn’t get called out on Reaper duty again,” she added.

“It’s not like we can plan our schedule around people’s deaths.” Half our dates were cut short because Xavier was called out on Reaper duty—in other words, escorting a departed soul into the afterlife. I doubted the Grim Reaper even knew Valentine’s Day was a thing, either. Dealing with the dead didn’t allow much time for the living.

“Don’t say that in front of Aunt Candace,” Estelle said. “She’ll put it in a book.”

“And you wonder why I haven’t invited him here yet.” I gave an eye-roll. 

“You haven’t asked him yet?” Cass said. “He doesn’t know he’s coming here?”

I shrugged. “He’s been busy.”

“Can’t you just text him?” she said. “You’re the one who talked him into getting a mobile phone to begin with.”

“Yeah, but the signal in the cemetery is almost as bad as here in the library.”

“Too many dead people?” She gave another snort. “I think you’re making excuses.”

Maybe I was, but while Xavier and I had been officially dating for just over a month, part of me still expected the Grim Reaper to retract his promise to leave us in peace. For all I knew, inviting Xavier to an official meeting with my family might be a step too far. His boss still seemed to be under the impression this was just a temporary fling, and while I knew Xavier himself thought differently, one did not defy the Grim Reaper without facing the consequences.

The mobile phone was a definite plus. Admittedly, Xavier’s new phone was a brick-like design from the early 2000s which could double as a paperweight, but at least Xavier and I had some means of contacting one another now. But asking the Reaper to dinner with my eccentric family? That wasn’t the same as him taking me to a fancy restaurant or a walk on the beach. My family would come armed with a full array of awkward questions, most of which would be more awkward for me than for him. The guy was pretty laid-back for someone who made a career out of escorting the dead into the afterlife. 

Aunt Candace walked into the lobby, her long black cloak flowing behind her and her hair in its usual bird’s nest of tangled red curls. 

“What is this ghastly mess?” she remarked of the heart-shaped confetti scattered all over the lobby floor.

“Told you so,” said Cass. “You’re outvoted, Estelle.”

“You all voted in favour when I asked if I should put confetti in the balloons,” said Estelle. “Look, it’s supposed to fit the theme. Would you rather I made it in the shape of kelpies or unicorns?”

“Yes,” said Cass. “I’m heading up to the pet shop. Don’t bring in any more balloons while I’m gone.” 

“Please don’t come back with a unicorn,” Estelle called after her as she walked out of the library. 

I dropped my voice. “I’m surprised she hasn’t brought one here yet.”

“Nah, even Cass wouldn’t go that far,” she said. “Animals like that aren’t meant to be kept in captivity, besides. I bet she’s just off to buy food for her pets.”

“I don’t mind the heart-shaped balloons, for the record,” I added, “but it’s your judgement call.”

“Unicorn-shaped balloons might work,” she said thoughtfully. “Aunt Candace, aren’t you going to chip in? I know you have some ideas.”

“This theme,” she said, gesturing to the bright pink confetti, “is not my thing.”

“Better than one of your atmospheric writing sessions,” Estelle said. “Just because you’re writing a dark and stormy night scene doesn’t mean everyone else needs to experience it as well.”

“I had to get the right ambience.”

“Not inside the library,” said Estelle. “Nobody wants to get rained on.”

“If they didn’t, they wouldn’t live on the coast of England,” said Aunt Candace. “Besides, you’re the one covering the place in glitter.”

“There’s not that much.” Estelle brushed pink glitter from her cloak. “Maybe a little.”

“A little?” Aunt Adelaide walked up to join us. “I found some in my bed earlier.”

“Sorry, Mum.”

Aunt Adelaide, Estelle’s mother, shared her curvy figure and the same red hair as the rest of us had, while her cloak bore the silver emblem of our family—an owl and two pens crossed. “Aside from the glitter, how are the preparations going?”

“It’d be going better if Sylvester didn’t keep attacking my balloons,” said Estelle. “Cupid just left to deliver today’s letters.”

“Is he the kid in the silly costume?” said Aunt Candace. “You know, the original Cupid didn’t wear those ridiculous fairy wings.”

“It’s not supposed to be an accurate representation of the Greek legend,” Estelle said. “What would you rather he wear, nothing?”

“I didn’t know Valentine’s Day was even a thing in the magical world, let alone Cupid,” I remarked. “How do you pick which human traditions to follow?”

“It varies,” said Aunt Adelaide. “All magical communities are different. As for Cupid… I believe the idea of dressing up in a costume with wings originated when a particular magical community hired fairies to deliver their letters. Somehow, the tradition merged with the Greek legend, and this was the result.”

“I guess it’s appropriate, given that fairies can make you fall in love with a snap of their fingers,” said Estelle. “Hmm… maybe I should use fairy-shaped confetti instead of hearts.”

Aunt Candace gave a snort. “If you’re looking for an idea for a new event, Hayley Sutton is running a blind dating service at the city hall.” 

“I know she is,” said Estelle. “Are you thinking of giving it a try?”

“I am,” said Aunt Adelaide. “I signed up myself this week. I have a date this Friday.”

“Ooh,” said Aunt Candace. “Do tell.”

“I’m not giving you any material to use in your books,” said Aunt Adelaide firmly. “And I’m not saying where, either. This is the first date I’ve had in weeks and I won’t have you frightening off my date by writing him into a book.”

“Oh, you know I never use real people in my books,” said Aunt Candace. 

I cleared my throat. “And my dad’s life story ended up being fictionalised by accident?”

“He gave permission,” she said indignantly. “Really. If you’re going to be like that, I’ll sign up to the blind dating service myself.” 

“If you’re looking for ideas, why not ask Cupid instead?” Estelle said. “He’s been dealing with scorned lovers all week while delivering Valentine’s cards to people. I’m sure he’ll have a few stories to share. Anonymous, of course.”

“Did you offer him hazard pay?” Aunt Candace walked away, brushing glitter off her cloak as she did so. “I may take you up on that offer, if that crow of yours runs out of gossip.”

“Honestly.” Aunt Adelaide frowned after her sister. “If she does sign up, we’d better not end up going to the same place for our dates.”

She and her husband had amicably divorced when Cass and Estelle were younger, while Aunt Candace’s last relationship had been her ill-fated fling with Dominic, a vampire who’d died shortly after their breakup when he’d run afoul of a thief. Aunt Candace was already writing a book featuring the two of them as star-crossed lovers, and while Dominic wasn’t alive to challenge her, she was better off making up her own stories than dragging real people into them. Then again, she was hardly the only member of our family to have a love life strange and eventful enough to be immortalised in one of her novels. Look at me and the Reaper. 

“I feel sorry for whoever she ends up on a blind date with,” I said. “She’ll have her notebook out there and then, I don’t doubt.”

“Everyone knows her by reputation at least,” said Estelle. “They’ll know what they’re getting into.”

“I suppose you’re right.” I shook confetti off my cloak. “Also, I don’t think Cass and Aunt Candace should be taken as speaking for the majority. Most people like the decorations.”

The library was an impressive enough sight in its default state, with five stories of towering shelves climbing up to the high ceiling, balconies overlooking the ground floor, and pretty lanterns which switched on in the evenings. Our family’s living quarters lay through a corridor on our left-hand side, while more doors further back led into classrooms and locked areas for the more dangerous of the library’s books. Life in a magical library was nothing if not exciting.

“They won’t if Sylvester bursts all the balloons and terrifies everyone,” she pointed out. “Maybe I should shut him in an upper corridor.”

“Or find him a date.”

She laughed. “What, another owl?”

That’s more likely than finding another embodiment of the library’s entire store of knowledge. Not that anyone except for me knew of Sylvester’s true nature. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was unique in the magical world. He certainly acted as though he was. “Maybe.”

Her eyes sparked. “I could set up a blind dating service for familiars. I was actually talking to Alice from the pet shop about that the other day. I reckon it’d be popular with the other witches.”

“Can you imagine how Sylvester would react around the other familiars, though?” I said. “He’d terrify everyone.”

“Maybe Jet wants to meet another crow. I’ll add it to the list.” She whipped out a notebook and scribbled a note down. 

Nothing made Estelle happier than organising events. There was a reason she was head of hospitality at the library. I was happier in a behind-the-scenes role, but Estelle and I had become close friends when I’d moved into the library and of my new family members, she and I had the most in common. We both enjoyed studying, though Estelle was doing a PhD in practical magical skills while I’d only joined the magical world about three months ago. While I’d passed both Grade Two and Three of my magical training, I was still an apprentice biblio-witch with a lot to learn.  

Despite all that, I’d come a long way in a short space of time. I’d even claimed my dad’s old wand, thought lost for years, and I’d done far braver things than asking the Reaper to dinner since my induction into the magical world. 

My phone buzzed with a message. I retrieved it from my pocket, expecting the text to be from Xavier, but instead it was from Laney, who’d been my best friend since before I’d moved to the library.

Are you doing anything fun on Valentine’s Day?

I rarely thought of my old life before the library these days, except when Laney messaged me. While I’d alluded to my new relationship in my messages to her, telling her I was dating the angel of death would not be a good idea. And not just because telling normals about the magical world was frowned upon at best. Still, I hated lying to someone who’d once been the only friend I’d had.

I think I’ll have a date, I responded.

With the dreamy guy you like? When can I meet him?

I hesitated to respond. While mentioning Xavier was the one way I could keep my best friend updated on my new life without having to lie, having her meet him in person was something else entirely. I’d need to think about that one.

“Danger!” yelled a shrill voice. My crow familiar, Jet, tapped on the window from the inside. 

Frowning, I walked over to him. “What is it?”

Estelle dropped the notebook on the desk and hurried to join me. “What’s the issue?”

“Something outside, I think.” I moved to the oak doors leading outside and pushed them open.

On the doorstep, Cupid lay flat on his back, an arrow sticking out of his shoulder. Silence fell as Estelle crouched over his body for a moment, then straightened upright.

“He won’t wake up,” she said tremulously. “I think he’s dead.”

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