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Emma L Adams

Witch in Progress: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 1 (Paperback)

Witch in Progress: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 1 (Paperback)

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Book 1 of 15: A Blair Wilkes Mystery

Penniless graduate Blair Wilkes has always felt one step behind everyone else in her life. Her uncanny ability to cause havoc wherever she treads has landed her in unemployment for the dozenth time when she receives a job offer from a strange town called Fairy Falls in the north of England. Even stranger is the fact that she has no memory of applying for the position.

Blair is certain her sudden change in fortunes is too good to be true… and she's right, in a way. It turns out Fairy Falls isn't just eccentric. It's magical, and so is Blair.

Learning she's a witch with a never-before-seen talent is just the first in a series of surprises that await Blair, but her new life comes with its fair share of pitfalls. From a hot ex-paranormal hunter security guard to a co-worker with an inexplicable grudge against Fairy Falls's newest witch, not to mention the mysterious death of a former client, Blair swiftly finds herself overwhelmed. After her magical skill gives her an unexpected lead on the murderer, she finds herself dragged into the investigation.

Can Blair figure out her magical talents before the paranormal killer notices she's on his tail? Or will her new beginning come to an untimely end?

This fun paranormal mystery from author Elle Adams contains a cast of quirky characters, a small English town brimming with secrets, and the unlikeliest witch ever to stumble into her magical powers.

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Read a sample

The phone call offering me my dream job didn’t exactly get off to a flying start.

The sound of a ringtone cut through my hangover in the early hours of the morning, on the twenty-somethingth day of this latest bout of unemployment. I grabbed my phone from the bedside table, wincing when the bright sunlight through the blinds glanced off the screen. A cheery voice as bright as the sun spoke into my ear. “Miss Blair Wilkes?”

I pictured the speaker as a young blond woman with a friendly smile, but in my mind’s eye, the image warped, turning into a hairy face with long, sharp teeth. Whoa. I’d really overdone it last night.

“That’s me,” I said, in response to her question.

“I have great news! You have the job.”

“That’s… great.” Ah. I’d applied for dozens of jobs in the last week alone. If it sounded vaguely like I’d be qualified, I was first at the door. And, to be honest, usually first out the door. “Can you be a little more specific? Who’s calling?”

“Dritch & Co,” she said sunnily. 

I cast my mind around in an attempt to recall which application she’d responded to. Somewhat tricky given that I’d perfected the art of filling out seven application forms at once and could become an expert on any subject in ten minutes courtesy of Google. But nothing about this “Dritch & Co” rang any bells in my hangover-ridden skull. 

“Erm,” I said. “I believe I applied a while ago… I may have forgotten the details.”

Probably true. The other week, I’d got a call from a coffee shop I’d applied to when I was eighteen and they’d seemed genuinely nonplussed that I’d actually aged in the last seven years and they couldn’t pay me the under-21s minimum wage. I blamed the robots for setting unrealistic expectations.

“It’s a paranormal recruitment firm in the town of Fairy Falls.”

A what recruitment firm? Apparently the wine had messed up my hearing as well as my mental functions. I’d thought recruitment firms usually hired graduates, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that I’d applied to one of those positions in the hope that nobody would glance too closely at my graduation date. Maybe I’d misheard the rest of it. I was starting to think I hadn’t sobered up yet.

“You’re exactly what we’re looking for,” she said. “When Veronica saw your profile, she knew we had to have you.”

Profile? I’d uploaded my pitiful employment history to approximately five hundred recruitment sites since I’d been a bright-eyed graduate. At twenty-one, everyone wanted me. At twenty-five, I’d pretty much burned through every possible employer in the town and quite a few in the next town over, too. Despite my dozy state, suspicion filtered in. There was usually a catch. And had she said Fairy Falls?

“So I’ve been invited to an interview, or…”

“No, you’ve got the job.”

“But…” What? Surely I needed to go through an interview at the very least. For one thing, I had absolutely no clue what this job was all about. Or where it was. “Fairy Falls? Did I hear that right?”

“It’s a little out of your way. But the job’s yours.” She beamed. I blinked in confusion, not so much because of her words but because she wasn’t on video and I hadn’t actually seen what her face looked like. Yet the image in my head of a smiling blond woman reappeared, warping into the hairy-faced monster again.

You’re dreaming. I pinched my arm, hard. Ow. Now my arm hurt as well as my head. My mouth tasted like something had curled up and died in it.

“I’ll send you some more information via email,” she went on. “We’re looking for fresh blood… don’t worry, we’re not vampires. Not me, anyway.”

I tried for a laugh but didn’t quite get there. Mostly because my brain wouldn’t stop showing me images of fangs and hairy faces. I definitely needed to stay away from the heavy stuff. I didn’t even drink that often—being penniless disqualified me from the swanky bars my former classmates frequented—but I’d been invited to an engagement party for my last unmarried friend from my year group at school and had accidentally ended up reliving my undergrad days.

Wait a moment. I’d been out last night because it was a Friday. What kind of firm called new potential employees on a Saturday morning? Evidently, the same type of company who operated from a town with a name like Fairy Falls, made jokes about vampires, and had possibly said the word paranormal. 

My phone pinged as an email showed up with a map attached. This Fairy Falls was located some five miles from here in the middle of Cumbria.

My brain screeched to a halt as the improbability of the situation hit me. Unless you had connections, most jobs had an interview or two. I’d only got my last bar job because I’d bribed a friend into pretending I was their long-lost cousin. And then I’d had an unfortunate and violent sneezing fit while polishing cutlery.

“Is there anywhere I can find accommodation?” I asked the woman on the phone. “I don’t live close enough to commute.”

If I’d been offered a job anywhere else, finding temporary accommodation would have been a minor consideration. But I’d never heard of this town. It sounded vaguely touristy. Actually, that was a good explanation for the weird name. Maybe I’d be dressing up in medieval-style clothes to take tourists around England’s rainiest corners. I could do that.

“You’re in luck,” she said. “I understand this location is difficult to find, and one of your colleagues has offered to send you a link to somewhere you can find accommodation. If it all works out well, you’ll start Monday morning.”

My email pinged again.

“I…” Use your words, Blair. “Thank you.” Until reality decided to pay another visit, I might as well check my inbox. 

Hello Blair, said the email, which came from someone called Bethan. This is my friend, Alissa. She’s looking for a flatmate. If you’re interested, I can put you in touch with her. She’s easy-going, loves animals, and is a member of the Meadowsweet Coven.

I had zero clue what that last part meant, but if the email footer was any indication, the message came from one of my new co-workers. I scrolled down. Maybe there was another Blair Wilkes they’d meant to contact. Someone with the same name as me. And, apparently, the same email address.

I opened the link attached to Alissa’s name. She was a real person, as far as the social networking sites went. Then I searched for my co-worker, Bethan. She was real, too.

I ran a hand over my face, put the phone aside and took two painkillers before returning to the generous flat share offer. If I had only one day to find somewhere to live, then my options were limited. Usually I took the first available spare room, which explained why right now, I was living in the same house as a half-dozen eighteen-year-old students who occasionally held house parties right underneath my feet. It wouldn’t be the first time I moved to a new town where I didn’t know anyone and crossed my fingers that I hadn’t accidentally signed up to live with a serial killer.

I opened the link to the site where they’d apparently found my details. My profile was there. Photo. Contact details. Entire sorry job history, embellished with fancy words to make me sound like a confident career woman. I had no memory of uploading it, but how else had it ended up there? Returning to the email, I skimmed through the details. If I accepted the offer to live with this Alissa person, I needed to pay a month’s deposit… Bye bye, savings.

Wait. Was I actually considering taking them up on their offer?

Maybe it was the pounding of my headache, maybe it was the dirty underwear my teenage housemate had left dangling from the window, or maybe it was the fact that my bank account was on the brink of sliding into negative numbers, but I found myself packing my bags within two minutes of the call. Ten minutes later, I’d phoned every person in my contacts I was still on speaking terms with to let them know I was leaving town. Again.

“Did you say Fairy Falls?” yelled Rebecca, my best friend.

It was hard to hold a conversation with a screaming infant in the background, hangover or not. “Yes,” I shouted back. “I know it sounds bizarre, but they gave me the offer without an interview.”

“They’re hoaxing you.”

“Thanks for being the voice of reason.” It seemed too weird to be a hoax. “Look, it’s not like I can’t come back here whenever I want.” Within reason. I was paying rent on my room in the shared house, but since my foster parents had retired to spend their days water-skiing in Australia, I had no backup. I needed this job.

“Didn’t mean to rain on your parade,” she said. “Hey, one of us has to make reckless decisions. Hope it works out for you.”

She hung up. I shook my head at the phone. To say we’d gone down different paths was an understatement. I might have pointed out that she was the one who’d bought the wine that had resulted in some ill-advised dancing on tables last night, but what would be the point? Maybe a fresh start was precisely what I needed.

I’d never known my birth parents. They’d given me up for adoption when I was a few days old, and I’d bounced between foster homes for a bit before Mr and Mrs Wilkes had taken me in. They loved me like real parents, but the rule was clear—when I’d turned eighteen, my allowance was cut off and I was out. They seemed genuinely disappointed that I’d yet to make anything of my life. I didn’t begrudge them for enjoying their retirement, but it’d be nice to have someone to see me off to my new job. Even if I ended up returning with my tail between my legs like I usually did.

Maybe it was growing up in foster care, but I’d always felt a dozen steps behind everyone else in my peer group, and that feeling had only intensified as they’d all settled into careers and families. I’d concluded that everyone else had clearly been handed a guidebook to life at birth and I’d missed out on it. And now here I was, single, alone, without a steady form of employment, and this mysterious job offer was a lifeline I couldn’t afford to lose.

New start. I’d better not screw up this one.

* * *

The first bus driver laughed at me outright when I asked for a ticket to ‘Fairy Falls’. With the second, I asked for a ticket to the next village over. Then the bus broke down. The driver got out and walked away, leaving me as the only remaining passenger. I waited five minutes, realised I was going to be late for my induction, and disembarked with my suitcase, following Google maps. Even my phone didn’t think the town existed.

The problem with snap decisions is that when they go wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself. I didn’t know where the nearest bus stop to the village was. Nor the train. Everything seemed to kind of… skip this area of the countryside. Including the roads. No wonder the bus had had trouble. There wasn’t even a proper footpath, more of a half-hearted muddy trench between fields. I looked at my phone. No internet connection. No phone signal either. I’d printed a map of the town from the email, but it didn’t tell me how to get there.

My suitcase wasn’t heavy, but I started to feel the strain after I’d been wheeling it for a while. I’d put most of the things I owned into my rucksack, but that was fairly lightweight too, aside from my second-hand laptop. Long stretches of unemployment had led me to sell most of my material possessions on eBay, and the number of times I’d moved had made me reluctant to hang onto too much. I’d been told my new flat was furnished, but I’d need to arrange for the rest of my things to be delivered to my new address… if I ever found it.

At least the scenery was nice, and this was hardly the first time I’d wound up lost in the middle of nowhere. A lake glittered in the distance between green fields. The bus had driven for an hour, but we were still a while off from the Lake District, unless I’d walked further than I’d thought. The lake must be a landmark, right? For a moment, I was certain I saw buildings reflected in the water, but they disappeared a second later. I thought mirages only appeared in deserts, not wet and muddy fields. 

I slipped and skidded and dragged my suitcase in the direction of the lake. By the time I got close to it, I knew I must have imagined the buildings. There weren’t any, just a vast expanse of water. I thought I knew all the lakes in the area, but this one was… distinctive. Its surface shimmered like spun gold, and I glimpsed weird flashes in the water. Almost like faces, with sharp teeth and weeds for hair. I blinked, and they disappeared.

Apparently my grasp on geography was worse than I’d thought. And quite possibly my grasp on sanity, too. Everything since that phone call had been like a waking dream. I turned my back on the lake, checking my phone again. Still no signal. The bus had disappeared from view, too. Oh no.

I looked around and my heart leapt when I spotted a person standing in the middle of the muddy path leading alongside the lake. Yes! Civilisation. I could ask for directions back to the bus stop. The figure was male, and his stance was… sort of intimidating. I stopped. Fear flooded me. What if he was a murderer or madman? That really should have been my first thought.

He was walking towards me. Oh no.

I gripped my suitcase, ready to ditch it and run for my life. Not that there was anywhere to run aside from the lake, and the houses…


Houses stood on either side of me, as suddenly as though they’d popped out of thin air. The mud turned to cobbled streets between brick houses right out of a Victorian novel.

What in the world? The crooked sign saying ‘Welcome to Fairy Falls’ which had suddenly appeared at the lake’s edge on my right wouldn’t have looked out of place in a horror movie.

Oh, god, the man was still walking towards me. At least houses meant there must be other people around, right?

“How did you get here?” he asked. His voice was deep, and he looked even more intimidating close up. Tall, dark, broad-shouldered, and dressed in some weird outdoorsy clothes like he was on the way to hike up a mountain. Oh wow. People who looked like they’d strode out of the covers of a romance novels did not strike up conversations with me. Unless I’d spilt coffee on them or tripped over their shoes.

“I need to see your ID,” he said. “If you’re new in town.”

“I—excuse me?”

“I’m security. This is the border to Fairy Falls. What are you here for?”

“I’m here to start my new job. I have to show identification to get into the town?”

“ID,” he said, again. “You shouldn’t have been able to find this place if you’re an outsider.”

“I am an outsider.” Was I ever. But his expression didn’t yield an inch. My common sense caught up and I fumbled for my provisional driver’s licence.

He scanned the picture, recognition flashing across his face. “My mistake. You look younger in the photograph. You’re the new girl, right?” He was looking at me like he knew me.

“New girl? I guess I am.”

His forehead scrunched up. “You don’t sound certain of that.”

“I think I know my own name.” Except when I occasionally misspelt it on application forms after an all-nighter. “I’m here for a job trial.”

“I know. Everyone knows.”

“You’re not helping the horror movie vibes,” I said. “If you’re planning to sacrifice me to the ancient god of your mysterious lake, I’m out of here.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Ancient god? The merpeople aren’t that bad.”

Right. Apparently my brain had had another moment and thought he said merpeople. “I meant in horror movies. You know. Like a creepy cult.”

“No. I wouldn’t say the Meadowsweet Coven are that bad, but they own everything here.”

“The what coven?” I said blankly.

“I wouldn’t say that in front of Madame Grey. In fact, you’re probably best to steer clear of her if you’re not with one of the local covens, and I’m assuming you’re not. I’m also assuming you’re not a shifter, but there are certain designated areas for shifting. It’s considered bad manners to turn into a wolf in the workplace.”

I blinked at him. Whatever weird lingo he was using, I was completely lost, in more ways than one.

He was giving me that look again. I didn’t have dirt on my face, did I? I hadn’t checked since my desperate departure from the bus, and my pristine appearance when I’d left the house had long since been replaced by frazzled bewilderment. And he still wasn’t getting out of the way.

I decided to humour him. “So are you the security guard for the whole town? What do you do, stop these… shifters from wandering in?”

“Amongst other things. I don’t kill evildoers anymore… I retired from hunting a long time ago.”

My mouth fell open. “Hunting… what?”

“Only the bad things. Not witches. You’re safe.”

Did he imply…?

Right. The hot security guard might be off his rocker, but I was already here. I had nothing to lose. I’d see how my new co-workers were before I ran screaming for the hills. There was no shortage of hills to run screaming into, given the scenery.

“Want me to escort you to the office?” he asked.

“No, thanks. I mean, shouldn’t you be guarding the border? Since you’re the only security guard there…”

He couldn’t have been standing there waiting for me to arrive, right? It was entirely possible that everyone at Dritch & Co was pranking me by sending me their super-hot security guard before drowning me in the lake or leaving my mutilated body in a nearby field. Except the houses hadn’t disappeared. Neither had the sign. Fairy Falls. It stood beside the lake, leaning at a crooked angle and making me considerably more reluctant to retrace my steps. The only other way to walk was past the houses, towards the centre of the town.

“I’m sure I’ll see you around, Blair,” he said.

Only when he’d gone did I realise I hadn’t asked him for directions. I pulled the town map from my pocket with shaking hands. I was positive it hadn’t had buildings on it before, but there it was—the lake, the town, and Dritch & Co’s office, two roads down. I walked past more houses, my suitcase bouncing off the cobblestones. There, on my left. Dritch & Co was a small brick building, unremarkable enough that it blended in with its neighbours—an estate agent and a flower shop. It also seemed to be called Eldritch & Co, which sounded more like something out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel than a nice and normal small town in the north of England. But what had I expected, a towering block like in London? Shaking my head at myself, I peered inside. I might as well ask directions to the nearest bus stop from here. Better than walking so close to the lake…

A young woman with curly black hair bounded into view. “I wondered if you’d come here first,” she said, beaming. “You must be Blair.”

I blinked. Then recognition dawned. I’d seen her picture on the email—Alissa, my new flatmate. She looked nice and normal, but then again, so had the security guard before he started speaking gibberish.

“Hey,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too,” she said. “I’ll take your suitcase back with me. You don’t mind cats, right?”

“No, of course not.”

“Good. Roald is my familiar. He might take a while to warm up to you, but he’s generally friendly with strangers.”

Did she say… familiar?

My suitcase wheeled away from me, and I swore it levitated off the ground for a moment—but right then, the door to Eldritch & Co’s office opened.

“Is that you, Blair?” called the friendly voice who’d spoken to me on the phone. “Come in.”

One of the people in the building must have an explanation. Hoping I hadn’t got myself into a mess I couldn’t walk away from this time, I entered.

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