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Emma L Adams

Witch in Disguise: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 4 (Paperback)

Witch in Disguise: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 4 (Paperback)

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Book 4 of 15: A Blair Wilkes Mystery

Everyone knows Blair's secret now… and it's up to her to deal with the aftermath. With her love life in tatters and her family beyond reach, the last thing she needs is her unpleasant former co-worker Blythe to show up on the doorstep begging for help.

A strange curse is spreading through the town and turning its victims' personalities inside-out. Now her boss is missing, her best friend is indulging in death-defying broomstick stunts and her neighbours are hiding secrets. Not to mention an impossible quest from an elf might bring her the answers on her family she badly needs.

Can Blair keep it together and undo the curse before the town falls apart?

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“Miaow.” Sky the cat swatted me awake, digging his claw into my cheek just hard enough to make me sit up. “Miaow.”

“Miaow yourself,” I said thickly. My throat was clogged up, my eyes were dry and burning, and my head pounded. Why did I feel like the living dead? Oh, right. It was my first day back at work since my life had imploded.

Past Blair had helpfully left a to-do list on the bedside table. It read:

Go to work.

Act normal.

Find out location of the paranormal prison my father is locked away in.

Bonus: find out why Nathan locked him up in the first place. 

It all seemed a little too much for a Monday.

Go to work… no problem. Act normal… might be difficult. Paranormal prison… I’d deal with that one later.

As for Nathan, I’d be best off not seeing him at all until I got my head—and life—back together.

First, I went to the bathroom, grimacing at my reflection in the mirror. Angry red splotches on my face, tangled dark brown hair, zombified expression. Maybe normal was some way off. A flash of glitter caught my eye and for a moment I half expected to see another face replace mine, with glittering skin and pointed ears, but the only glitter in here was Alissa’s luminescent shower gel. You’re losing it, Blair.

After I’d showered and dressed, drying my hair with a wave of my wand—and silently thanking Alissa for teaching me that spell—I returned to my room to find a pixie fluttering above my bed. The small flitting creature had been randomly appearing in the flat for weeks, and generally, only I could see it. It was about eight inches tall, with little pointed ears jutting from behind tufts of thick blond hair, and was clothed in a bark-coloured shirt and trousers. It was also covered in glitter. Maybe I wasn’t cracking up after all.

The pixie landed on the scrap of paper I’d left out on my bedside table. I’d spent the last few days writing and rewriting a response to the note left by my father, who was currently locked in a secure paranormal prison. His note hadn’t said why he’d been locked up, only that he’d wanted to meet me. Thanks to a wizard murderer and his nasty monster pet hiding in the forest, I’d missed that meeting and wouldn’t get another one until the next solstice. It was barely July, and I had a long summer ahead.

“Sure,” I said to the pixie. “Go ahead, take it to him.”

The pixie picked up the note, then vanished in a swirl of glitter. Thanks to that little creature, I was constantly picking glitter out of my clothes and hair. It seemed to shed everywhere. Maybe a fairy thing. I was far from an expert despite being half fairy, partly because I’d never met the fairy side of my birth family. In the note, I’d ended up just giving my dad a brief summary of my life, and adding that I’d like to see him if they ever let him out of the jail again. I hadn’t quite had the courage to ask what he’d done to get locked up—I’d ask him later, or if we ever got to speak face to face.

I had too many questions to put in a simple letter. I’d barely been a year old when I’d been put into foster care and as far as I’d known since then, I’d been normal. I’d kept the note brief in the end, not wanting to get into my history of losing jobs and drifting around and never fitting in anywhere. Fairy Falls was the closest I’d felt to home, and I’d even messed that up when I’d neglected to tell the guy I was sort-of-seeing that I was half fairy and then de-glamoured in front of half the town. 

“You look like you just slept in a coffin,” said Alissa, my flatmate, sipping coffee at the kitchen table when I walked in. Her cat, Roald, lay curled around her feet, occasionally swatting at Sky when he got too close. Sprawled under the table, Sky looked non-threatening, a little black cat with one white paw, and one grey and one blue eye—but his other form was a terrifying beast.

When I’d adopted Sky—or rather, he’d adopted me—everyone had assumed he was a witch’s familiar and had picked me for that reason. Instead, he’d turned out to be a fairy cat who could shapeshift, walk through walls, and pick up on the psychic projections of vampires. Oh, and turn into a giant furry monster. And I wondered why I could never get used to this new ‘normal’.

“Most vampires look more alert than I do,” I said, walking to the kitchen counter. “Apparently, immortality means being able to sleep in coffins without waking up with horrible back pain.”

“Most vampires line their coffins with cushions,” she said. “Not that it sounds fun either way. What if you forget about the coffin lid and hit your head in the middle of the night?”

“Exactly.” Since Alissa had been sort-of-dating a vampire until recently, she’d know all about the downsides. “That’s why I’d make a terrible vampire. Not that I’m a great fairy either…” I clamped my mouth shut before I started listing all my woes. Act normal, remember? 

Alissa gave me a concerned look as I brought my mug of the caffeinated witchy brew to the table. “Are you okay, Blair?”

“What did my fairy form actually look like?” I blurted. “It’s not like there were any mirrors around when we were running for our lives.”

She blinked. “Winged. Shiny. Otherwise, basically like you. Why?”

I shook my head. “The way everyone stared, it was like I’d turned into an elf or something.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “The elves are barely related to you. Really, don’t worry about it. Everyone will have forgotten soon.”

I sincerely doubted they’d forgotten my public performance that easily. “I hope it’s a calm day at the office.” I’d been allowed a few days off to recover from my latest ordeal—in this case, being the prisoner of a mad wizard in his ancestor’s house—but at least my co-workers already knew I was half fairy. That would make things easier. And let’s face it, they’d seen me screw up before. I’d once accidentally turned myself transparent for two full days when I’d tried to make an invisibility potion.

“Do you have a magic lesson later?” Alissa asked.

I took a long sip of coffee. “Yep. I’m going to beg Rita to keep me in individual classes for now, but to start at a higher level. Mostly so I stop accidentally creating spontaneous glitter balls.”

Let’s just say I’d had a little trouble learning to use my wand, at least until I’d figured out that I was actually left-wand-handed and not right-handed like I was with everything else. Even then, my magic was erratic, reacted in response to emotions without conscious thought, and generally didn’t behave in the way it was supposed to.

She snorted. “You’re not wrong. If it’s any consolation, you have a ton of raw talent, but you just haven’t learned to control it in the right way.”

“Is Madame Grey going to be there?” I asked. “I know she’s still busy dealing with complaints from the werewolves and the vampires, but I wanted to talk to her.”

“If she has any sense, she’s run off,” Alissa said. “They won’t give her a moment’s peace. What, did you want to talk about your magical training with her, or…?”

I sipped my coffee, twisting my hands around the mug. “Yeah… and no. I just sent a message with the pixie, but I can’t help wondering if she knows the number for the Lancashire Prison for Paranormals so I can contact my dad.”

Alissa’s expression filled with pity, which I’d expected. “Maybe, but… they don’t allow visits. As far as I know, anyway. I’m sorry.”

I nodded, disappointment seeping through me. It sounded like the paranormal prison made Fairy Falls’s gargoyle law enforcement look like cuddly bunnies. And if it turned out my father had committed a horrible crime, then maybe it was for the best that he stayed behind bars. And yet… I wanted to know the truth. Of course, since Nathan had arrested my father, it was possible he knew—but the idea of facing him seemed as appealing as spending the night in a coffin.

I’d considered sending Sky to pay the prison a visit, since he could walk through walls, but I needed to find out where the prison actually was. The pixie had gone to deliver the letter, so I’d see if my dad sent a response and then decide what to do.

I put my coffee mug aside. “Right. Best get to work.”

“Good luck,” Alissa told me as I gathered my things.

I needed more than luck to avoid the endless stares. I’d hoped to gradually break the news that I was half fairy, not expose myself in a public display. Steeling myself, I walked outside. 

Most people travelled on foot in Fairy Falls, since it was a small town and magic caused most human technology to malfunction, so the streets were packed with people walking to work. I figured flying to work using my Seven Millimetre Boots would attract too much attention, but everyone stared anyway. I put my head down, walking as quickly as I could. Did they expect me to talk to them? Maybe tell a joke? Or de-glamour and fly around like I’d done when the disguise had come off?

The ‘act normal’ part of my plan wasn’t going well, and a flood of relief hit me when I reached the office of Dritch & Co, my employers. Okay, maybe striving for normal when I worked for a paranormal recruitment firm was an impossibility, but my co-workers were friendly and my boss seemed to like me, too.

Callie, the receptionist, glanced up as I walked in. The blond werewolf harboured no hard feelings towards me for the latest catastrophe—which was more than I could say for her family—but she didn’t give me her usual friendly wave. I gritted my teeth and entered the half open door to the main office.

Two of my fellow co-workers were already there. To my relief, Lizzie and Bethan both waved at me. The latter was the daughter of the boss, a woman of around my age with straight dark hair and pale skin, whose magical gift allowed her to do the work of five people at once. And then there was Lizzie—dark-skinned with delicate features, and creator of the office’s heavenly coffee machine. Her speciality was magical technology. The newest member, Lena, wasn’t here yet.

“The boss is acting weird,” said Bethan. “Fair warning. Otherwise, today’s list is pretty light. I asked her to go easy on you.”

“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “I appreciate it.”

I busied myself organising my desk to avoid their stares, knowing they were just trying to be nice. Bethan and Alissa were friends, so the latter would have told her everything—or the part I didn’t mind people knowing, anyway. But of course, there’d been so many witnesses to my abrupt de-glamouring when we’d caught the wizard, there was no way the boss wouldn’t know what a public fool I’d made of myself by now.

And that wasn’t even getting into the fact that my potential relationship with Nathan lay in tatters.

I wouldn’t have said I had horribly low self-esteem, but in the normal world, the only thing I’d win prizes for was faking my way through job interviews. Failure was second nature to me, but I couldn’t remember ever feeling this wretched after messing up royally before. I’d lost more jobs than I had fingers on both hands, and I’d once been fired for accidentally downloading a virus onto every single computer in the posh London office I’d worked at as a recent graduate. Turning into a fairy in front of a bunch of werewolves was nothing in comparison, and Alissa was right—sooner or later, something else would come along and distract everyone.

I skimmed through the client list, crossing my fingers under the desk that none of the clients listed for the day had hairy faces or fangs. We mostly dealt with paranormal businessmen or fussy wizards. The tricky stuff was off-limits to me until I became better at witchcraft, unicorn-tamers being one of them. Luckily, today didn’t seem too heinous, and neither did the small mountain of paperwork I’d accumulated. If anything, I needed the distraction.

The morning passed swiftly enough, and nobody asked any awkward questions over the phone. Routine was good. Mid-morning, however, Veronica entered the office. Tall and lean like her daughter, she had long silver-white hair and a manner that vacillated between concerned professional and eccentric. 

She dropped some papers onto the edge of my desk without ceremony. “Do deal with this one as soon as possible,” she said, looking distractedly out the window. “I have an important call to make.”

I blinked after her as she left the office. “Something up with her?”

“Possibly,” said Bethan. “I don’t know, I think my dad may have got in touch with her again. She always acts slightly off when she gets a call from him, and she’s been behaving weirdly since Saturday.”

The normally straight-laced boss’s one sore point was her ex-husband, the shifter who’d fathered her only child. And that was all Bethan had ever said on the subject.

I picked up the top page of the stack she’d put on the desk. “Guards? They want more security guards?”

“After the last few weeks?” said Lizzie. “I don’t blame them.”

“It doesn’t say who’s hiring them. Maybe the covens.” My heart fluttered uneasily. Nathan, former paranormal hunter, was the town’s only professional security guard. That they wanted to hire more came as no surprise, even though the mad wizard was in jail and the monster from the forest had met a swift end at the jaws of my pet cat. The boss likely didn’t know that Nathan had jailed my father and that we hadn’t spoken since he’d broken the news. Nobody really discussed his past as a paranormal hunter, including Nathan himself most of the time. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for more security guards to help him out. The main reason we’d had so few dates was because everyone had wanted to hire him. Not that it mattered now.

“Sure you want to handle that one?” asked Bethan, eyeing the paper stack.

“Yeah, no problem.”

If nothing else, it’d give me the chance to find out a little more about what paranormal security actually entailed. After reading the job description, I understood now why it was so hard for them to find any more qualified people, which was why they’d ended up sending half their gargoyle police force to guard the forest when there’d been a monster loose in there.

“So how long has the town got by with limited security?” I asked, skimming the details of the possible candidates.

“You mean, one security guard?” asked Bethan. “A while. It’s partly because of the forest. We have shifters on one side of town, vampires on the other, and witches… basically, criminal elements have a tough time getting close. That, and we’re hidden. There are wards around the whole town. And now the gargoyles are always watching the northern border too.”

I nodded. “Okay. Makes sense. Most of the people listed here are wizards.” 

I turned to the next piece of paper, and my heart dropped through the floor. Listed on the page was the address of the local segment of the paranormal hunters.

“They want to bring in the hunters?” My voice rose in volume, as much as I tried to keep it down.

“Seriously?” said Lizzie, her brows rising. “That’s… not good.”

“I can take that one if you like,” said Bethan, though she looked worried, too. “Mum didn’t tell me, but it makes sense that they might want outside help.”

Were they Nathan’s former co-workers? “Oh, no, I don’t mind making the call.” It’s not like he actually works for them anymore.

“If you’re sure,” said Bethan.

I hesitated, my mouth dry, then called the listed number.

“Welcome to the Lancashire Paranormal Hunters Division. Please leave a message.”

“Ah,” I said, flustered. “It’s Blair, from Eldritch & Co recruitment… we’re looking for some security guards for the village of Fairy Falls, Lancashire. If any of your employees are interested, please call this number and let us know.”

I hope they aren’t. Thinking of how certain paranormals, like the werewolves, reacted to Nathan… bringing actual hunters in would cause more strife when we really didn’t need it.

I hung up and met Bethan’s questioning stare. “Guess they’re busy.”

“Paranormal criminals don’t catch themselves,” she said.

“I guess not,” I said. “So… what do you have to do to get yourself locked up in their prison? I heard it’s worse than the town jail, even.”

“It’s for serious career criminals,” said Bethan. “Or people nobody else wants to deal with.”

“But don’t a lot of paranormals police their own?” I asked. “I mean, we just saw that the vampires took care of the guy who bit someone without permission. And the werewolves deal with their own criminals as well.”

“Yes, true,” Lizzie said. “The hunters deal with criminals who don’t belong to any paranormal community. Anyone from people who expose their magic to normals to paranormal serial killers.”

Maybe that’s what my father had done. Used fairy magic in front of humans. But it wasn’t like they couldn’t erase memories. And if he’d been jailed my whole life… wait. Idiot, Blair. I should have asked Nathan when my father had been arrested. I’d been in too much shock at the time, but Nathan wasn’t that much older than I was. He couldn’t have been a security guard at the prison before I was born. And I’d only found out I was paranormal recently…

Which meant that up until not long ago, my father had been free, out there in the world, and had never got in touch.

I should have put that in the letter. I should have asked. I’d been too stunned that he wanted to get in touch at all to do some simple sums, but it sounded like he’d been free for most of my life. So why hadn’t he wanted to contact me?

I had no idea how I got through the rest of the workday, but the hunters didn’t call back and I finished the rest of my client list with time to spare. I walked home in a daze, ignoring a fresh wave of stares from passers-by. Including schoolchildren, who added pointing to the mix. 

“Fairy!” a little boy said.

“Is that the fairy witch?” a young girl eagerly asked her mum.


I kept my head down, unable to believe I’d somehow found a reason to feel even worse. If I wanted to know more about my dad’s arrest, I’d need to speak to Nathan again, but I couldn’t face that. I still had a magic lesson to get through.

I reached my house… and found the cherry on top of the cake of the crappiest day ever. Blythe, my former co-worker, waited on my doorstep. 

“I need your help, Blair,” she said.

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