Siren's Song

Release Date: October 30, 2017

When the fog rolls in from the sea, sometimes ghosts from the past follow it...

Sandy’s under attack. First, she’s almost mowed down at the supermarket, then her new beach-front oyster bar is destroyed on its grand opening day. But when she’s found in a coma, the danger heats up as parts of her dreaming world escape into reality. Now, Maddy, Aegis, and Max must find the cure for the mysterious disease Sandy is suffering from, before she's permanently trapped in the realm of dreams.

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Chapter 1

"Maddy Gallowglass, if you called us here without a good reason, I swear, I'm going to tell people to boycott your bed and breakfast. I'm paying the babysitter by the hour, and Joe's out of town. My washer broke this morning and I am not in the mood."

I knew Tanith was joking about the boycott. At least, I thought she was, but she sure as hell didn't look happy. I glanced at the clock. It was eight-thirty and getting later by the minute. With a sigh, I pulled out my phone.

"I'll text her again."

WHERE ARE YOU? WE'RE WAITING AND TANITH IS STARTING TO BOIL.

I waited for a moment. No answer. "I don't know what's holding her up. That's the third time I've texted her. It's not like Sandy to ignore her phone."

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"Maybe you should call her. Maybe she took a nap?" Angus McAllister crossed his right ankle over his left knee. At least this time, he didn't treat us to an unexpected peep show. He was wearing a kilt-he always wore a kilt-and the last meeting, he had managed to expose us to the fact that yes indeed, men in kilts often did go commando. At least Angus did.

I started to mutter that Sandy didn't take naps, but then stopped. It wouldn't do anything to help the situation.

"I'll give her a ring if she doesn't answer in another five minutes."

I tossed my notebook on the table and leaned back, chugging the last of my iced mocha. So much for getting through the meeting in good time. The inner council of the Moonrise Coven was supposed to deconstruct the Litha ritual that we had led for the town and discuss what had gone right, and where we had missed the mark. There were always glitches. My plan was to learn from every ritual we did, trying to minimize future screw ups. But on summer solstice, we had really lost control. The magical Wishing Tree we had set up for the children of the town had gone amok. Five of us had ended up chasing a drunken unicorn through Turnwheel Park as it careened through the ritual staging area, tearing up the decorations and charging a group of werewolf tourists out for a stroll. In turn, the werewolves had been so startled, they had shifted, destroying their clothes in the process, and Delia and her deputies had to lock them in jail till they shifted back for everybody's protection. It had cost the city money, and there was a good chance that Bedlam had been blistered on Yawp-the online supernatural review site.

"We're going to have to discuss Litha at some point," I said, wondering whether to start the meeting without her. But Sandy was one-fifth of the inner council. We needed her input.

Terrance rolled his eyes. "How many times do I have to tell you that I had no clue Sean O'Donnell would be drunk off his ass?"

Sean O'Donnell was the local leprechaun who Terrance had "volunteered" to enchant the Wishing Tree for us. I had been surprised that he was so helpful, though now I suspected it was because he was constantly liquored up. But I hadn't known about his problem with booze when I agreed with Terrance's idea that Sean would be the perfect candidate.

"You should have known because Sean's always in the Boil & Squeak, chugging down ale." Tanith shook her head. "Really, talk about a Darwin Award situation."

Terrance gave her the finger. "I don't happen to frequent bars, especially the Boil & Squeak. If I had known he's a regular there, I would never have suggested him."

"Children, children, enough!" I tried to smooth things over. "Now we know. Asking the local leprechaun for help? Not such a good idea. At least nobody was hurt."

"Thanks to Auntie Tautau." Tanith fell silent again.

As High Priestess of the coven, even though I had only assumed the leadership six months before, all the responsibility and blame fell on my shoulders. I knew how to lead smaller groups-I was extraordinarily good at it. But large groups of people, hundreds at one time? I was still finding my way. Sometimes, even the best laid plans ended up in a heap on the floor.

The warmth of the day filtered through the building and I thought maybe it would be a good idea to consider air conditioning. At least a couple room-sized units for our main meeting room and our practice area. Today the temperature had reached eighty-five-unseasonably high-and thanks to the humidity, it was sweltering.

Tanith blew a strand of bubble-gum pink hair off her forehead. "Can we start without Sandy? I'd like to get home before the babysitter eats me out of house and home." Her hair color suited her, even though I personally detested pale pink. Tanith was tanned and lean. She lived for jogging and sunbathing and all those other activities that made me want to run the other way, but she was an accomplished witch and-usually-friendly enough.

"I know we're all hot and frustrated, but I'd rather not. I want everybody's input on how to handle the autumn equinox, especially in light of the Sean incident. Thank the gods we don't have to lead the cross-quarter holidays. The quarter days are enough to make me tear my hair out." I rolled my eyes, and the others laughed, even Tanith.

Besides Tanith and Angus, and Terrance, the inner council consisted of me, and my best friend, Sandy Clauson, who was noticeably late and not answering her texts. Finally, I caved and called her. Her phone rang once. Twice. Three times. On the fifth, it switched over to voice mail.

"Where are you? Did you forget? You making time in the sheets with Max? Call me." Frustrated, I ended the call. "I don't know where she is. Maybe she just forgot and is out on a date with Max or something." I tossed my phone on the cushion beside me.

We were meeting in the Temple Arianrhod, a three-story brick building that had once been a private schoolhouse. It had belonged to a Fam-trad, a family-oriented tradition, who were very peculiar in their beliefs. Much like homeschooling, they had brought their children up fully in their own beliefs, including their general education. The Fam-trad had been an obscure one, and had died out with the last of the family. After that, the Moonrise Coven bought the schoolhouse at an estate sale, along with the five acres it sat on.

Over the decades, we had transformed the schoolhouse into the Temple Arianrhod, and the acreage into a lush woodland, including a private grove and a fire pit reserved for our coven. We rented out one meadow to the public for rituals, although the town-wide celebrations took place in Turnwheel park downtown, and the temple had a large auditorium where we often held community meetings. One of our coven members, Jonquil Adams, lived in the temple as the caretaker. We paid her a salary to keep it clean and to watch over the building.

"So, I suppose we should plan to meet another night." My suggestion met with an irritated groan from Tanith, and steady stares from Angus and Terrance. But I was the High Priestess. They could complain all they liked, but they'd come through in the end.

"All right, what date?" Tanith pulled out her phone, staring at her schedule.

I opened my day planner. I preferred paper to my phone when it came to appointments. I'd missed too many meetings because I entered the information wrong. It was just easier to write it down. But everything this week was booked.

"Seriously? I can't believe my schedule. You know what? I'll get in touch with Sandy and find out why she couldn't make it, then will CC an email to everybody with a choice of dates. That work for you guys? All right, then we're good. Let's head out."

I gathered my notebook and planner and shoved them into my tote bag. As I stuck my phone in the pocket of my sundress, Tanith scrambled out the door with barely a 'goodbye' over her shoulder. Terrance followed her, more slowly. Angus, however, hung back to help me as I began to straighten up. I always tossed our used coffee cups and napkins, and wiped crumbs off the table. I didn't like to leave a mess for Jonquil.

Angus carried the empty cookie plate over to a small sink in the corner and washed it off, drying it on the crisp white tea towel that hung over a rack on the wall. He placed it in the cupboard above the sink as I began to turn the chairs upside down on the table so Jonquil could vacuum.

"So, how are you enjoying leading the coven?" he asked.

I paused, my hands on the back of a chair. "To be honest? I enjoy it, but it's overwhelming at times. I don't know how Linda kept track of everything. I worry that I'm not doing a good job. I know I'm more than capable on a magical level, but the administration? I'm not so keen on."

"I think any position of leadership is going to have issues in that regard." He hesitated for a moment, and I could tell he was debating whether to say something.

"What is it?" I preferred it when people were straight up with me. It made life simpler, if at times a little uncomfortable.

"I just wanted to say, I think you're doing a pretty good job. The coven is facing growing pains. Any transition in power is bound to bring a period of adjustment. Some of the coven members might be a little testy because they were close to Linda. They don't blame you, but the whole situation was odd. I wouldn't worry if I were you." He smoothed the skirt of his kilt.

I flashed him a smile. "Thanks. You're talking about Tanith, aren't you? I knew she and Linda were friends, but I didn't think the transition would be this difficult for her. I would have chosen someone else for the inner council to take my old seat if I had known. Thing is, Tanith always seemed to like me, so I wasn't expecting her to brush me off."

When Rose had been murdered in my garden and, during the subsequent investigation, the High Priestess had vanished and the coven leadership passed to me. I knew Linda was in the Witches Protection Program, but I couldn't tell anybody. And, even though I had been one of the founding members it didn't mean that I kept up to date on every coven member's life. But Tanith and I had always gotten along, so I wasn't expecting trouble. However, for the past few months-ever since our Ostara ritual in March-she had become distant and moody, arguing with me during meetings.

"I suppose I need to have a talk with her. I can't let resentment fester."

Again, Angus looked slightly uncomfortable. "I think she's having problems at home. Her husband isn't doing much to help out with the kid, and she not only has to work a day job, but she has to come home and take care of the house and their child. I think she's just overwhelmed with responsibilities."

Tanith had married a human, and they had a two-year old. I didn't know much about her private life, but that could explain a lot.

I nodded. "Thanks, I'll walk softly, but she needs to talk to me. I suppose that's part of my job now. I haven't really been paying much attention to anything outside the rituals and trying to sort out the books. Linda left the coven files in a bit of a mess and it's all because..."

I paused, not wanting to say too much. There were certain things the coven was better off not knowing about. And the fact that Linda's files were a mess because she had been in collusion with Essie Vanderbilt, the queen of the Pacific Northwest Vampire Nation, was one of them. Regardless of the reason-and it had been a good one-Linda had sold the coven short.

Angus frowned and stroked his long red beard. It reached the top button of his shirt. "I know there's more to it than you can tell me, but what I know is probably just enough to be dangerous. I'm just going to put this out there: if Essie Vanderbilt gets her hooks in the coven, I'm quitting."

I held his gaze. "I promise, she won't, not if I can stop her. I have my reasons for keeping in the loop with Essie, but you're right about one thing. You are better off not knowing." I glanced around. "All right, we're done. Let's head out. I'll see you Wednesday." I glanced at my phone again. Still no message from Sandy.

I locked the door behind us, he walked me out to my car.

"Night, Maddy. And...thanks." Angus hopped on his motorcycle and gave me a wave.

I waved back, then slid into my CR-V. I paused, texting Sandy again, but to no avail. Where the hell could she be? Maybe she had lost her phone, or broke it, and couldn't answer. Comforting myself with that thought, I eased out of the parking lot.

* * *

Dusk was falling on Bedlam, the sky tinged with streaks of grays and blues as it faded into the indigo of the approaching night. June was usually a mild month, with temperatures into the upper sixties and a drizzle of rain now and then, but we were in the middle of a heat wave. The flowers and trees were in full swing, and the air smelled clean, salt-water fresh from the surrounding ocean that flowed in through the straits.

The city of Bedlam spread across the entire island-which was also named Bedlam.

A small island located in the San Juans off the coast of Washington State, Bedlam was near Lopez and Orcas Islands, in the Haro Strait. Bedlam's climate was anomalous to the rest of the nearby islands, due to two factors. One, it was further north than the rest and was therefore at the perfect angle to receive the brunt of the storms that whistled through the straits. The second reason was that the magical power of the land attracted storms like a magnet. Bedlam's aura might as well reach out to pluck the clouds and rain and snow out of the atmosphere. We received more snow and rain than the surrounding islands, and our springs were milder, if drizzly, and summer was sun-baked during the months of July and August.

There were about six thousand people living in Bedlam, and most of us were Otherkin-members of the Pretcom, the supernatural community. The town had a quirky old-world charm to it, and the houses were a blend of Victoria, ramblers, and gingerbread cottages. Most people kept their homes in good shape. There were a few abandoned buildings littering the island, but mostly, the oldest buildings were very old, having been brought over piece by piece from other countries and rebuilt in Bedlam, and they were still being used.

I eased onto Rosewood Road, which encircled the island. I thought about going home, but Aegis was out of town on a gig so I decided to stop in town for dinner. The guests at my B&B-the Bewitching Bedlam-were well-taken care of by Kelson Farsight, my new housekeeper and general receptionist. She was a whirlwind of activity, a werewolf on a mission, so to speak. She loved keeping busy. Not only did she keep the house spotless, she also made the guests feel right at home. I did my best, but I had to admit that Kelson could run rings around me. I made sure she was paid well because I really didn't want to lose her.

I thought about going to the Blue Jinn, but I didn't feel like a sit-down meal. While I had been working out regularly, and eating better the past few months, I knew I would never lose my love of fried foods, and right now, I was in the mood for fish and chips.

I eased into the parking lot of the Clam Shack. As I leaned against the take out window of the combo food truck/take out joint, it occurred to me that in a few days, I'd be able to drop in at Sandy's new venture. She was opening a small oyster bar down on the shore, complete with waterfront views.

I ordered fried halibut and chips, and a cup of clam chowder, and then drove down the street to Eygar's Park, a small park with picnic tables that was directly on the shore. After finding a table and setting out my dinner, I pulled out my phone. Time to try Sandy again.

Again, no answer. Where the hell could she be? I was starting to get worried. I wondered if I should call Max. She might be over at his place. Finally, in between bites of the fish and the chowder, I called him. This time, I got an answer.

"Maddy? What's shaking?" The weretiger didn't sound worried, which gave me a momentary relief. He and Sandy were quite the item and things were really heating up between them.

"Listen, Max, I've been trying to reach Sandy all evening. She was supposed to be at a coven meeting tonight, and she didn't show. I've been texting her and calling her, but she hasn't answered. Is she at your place, by chance?"

A breeze sprang up, wafting the scent of roses past me. Floral and spicy, they smelled like some exotic perfume. I inhaled deeply, wondering where the bushes were. Whatever variety they were, I wanted some for my garden. I wanted to make essential oil from them.

"That's odd," Max said. "When I asked her to dinner tonight, she said she couldn't make it-that she had a coven meeting. So I know she was planning on attending."

"I wonder if there was some emergency with Jenna." Jenna was Sandy's ward, attending the Neverfall Academy for Gifted Students, which was on the northeastern side of Bedlam. It was up the coast a ways, on a campus that overlooked the water.

"Do you have her number?" Max paused, then added, "Never mind, I do. I'll call her and then call you back."

"Don't worry the girl, though. Sandy could have lost her phone."

"I won't. I'll ring you right back."

After he hung up, I polished off my chowder, staring out at the water. Bedlam was a far cry from Seattle, where I had lived for a number of years. While I had come here for coven meetings since the 1950s, I had only moved over to the island nine months before, on a drunken whim. So much had changed since then. I had met Aegis, my vampire boyfriend, I had opened the Bewitching Bedlam bed-and-breakfast, and had settled into a life where I felt comfortable and happy. But there were shadows brewing, and I had lived long enough to know that nothing was ever perfect. And that joy was always intermingled with sorrow.

* * *

My name is Maudlin Gallowglass, Maddy, for short. Among my nicknames, though, is the one I'm most famous for: Mad Maudlin. And that name, perhaps, represents my essential self. I was born on October twenty-eighth, in 1629, in Ireland, and spent much of my early life traveling between Ireland and England.

Long ago and far away, I was in love with Tom-Tom of Bedlam, as he was called. A different country, a different Bedlam. He was also a witch, and we roamed the countryside, staying a hop and a step ahead of the witch hunters. We posed as minstrels, or rather, my sweet Tom did. He wrote a song that's now a famous folk song. Mad Tom of Bedlam, or as it's often called, the Boys of Bedlam, was about our life, and the "Mad Maudlin" in the song refers to me.

As I said, we journeyed through the countryside, casting our spells and making music and having fun. Tom, I met him through one of my best friends, Fata Morgana, who now runs with the wild ocean. I found Bubba in 1687, who I found as a kitjin-a baby cjinn-and he traveled with us. Eventually Sandy joined us in 1699. We made quite a crew, and we were well known across the lands. Luckily, there was no such thing as the internet then, or GPS systems, and we were able to evade the Inquisition and their tortures.

But in 1720, Tom and I encountered a group of vampires. Tom summoned a Faerie warrior, who saved Bubba and me, dragging us into a barrow mound. But the vampires caught hold of Tom, and they turned him. And my sweet love was no more, lost forever to the night.

When I emerged from the Faerie mound in 1740 and found out what had happened, Mad Maudlin took over, and I ran wild. I took up hunting vampires, and together with Fata Morgana and Sandy, we stalked and staked them-as many as we could. The world became a river of blood as I sought revenge for my Tom.

Until one night we stood on a hill above a village of the creatures, and I rained fire down from the heavens to destroy every vampire in the village. That night, something snapped, and we walked away and threw ourselves into a wild, raucous life for decades. And then...sanity returned, and Fata left for the waves, and Sandy and I left for other places, and other ventures.

Now, I'm here. And I'm in love with a vampire-yes, I recognize the irony. Bubba's still by my side, and Sandy and I are best friends. As for Fata...who knows where the waves took her? But I'm content. The world is a different place, and life evolves. And I'm happy.

* * *

Max called back a few minutes later. I had just finished the last piece of fish and my fingers were greasy, so I grabbed a napkin and used a voice command to answer the phone.

"Hey, did you find out anything?"

His voice shaking, Max said, "Yeah. Jenna hasn't heard from her, but just as I was getting off the phone, a call came in from Delia."

Delia Waters was Bedlam's sheriff and mayor. She was also a werewolf, and had become a good friend over the past few months. In fact, my new housekeeper, Kelson, was Delia's cousin.

"What's wrong? I can hear it in your voice. What happened?"

Max took a deep breath. "I'm headed to Straitwater Hospital. Sandy was sideswiped earlier in the parking lot. She's just regained consciousness. She's alive, but she's pretty shaken up-that's all I know."

"I'll meet you there." I hung up and jammed my phone in my pocket. Damn it, here I'd been ticked off at her for not answering and she had been lying hurt in the street. Feeling seven shades of guilt, I headed to my car, dumping the rest of my dinner in the garbage can.

COLLAPSE

Playlist:

A.J. Roach: Devil May Dance
Al Stewart: Life in Dark Water
The Alan Parsons Project: Breakdown, Can't Take it With You
Alice in Chains: Man in the Box
Amanda Blank: Make It Take It, Something Bigger, Something Better
Android Lust: Here and Now, Saint Over
Arch Leaves: Nowhere to Go
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour: Hurricane, X, Around the Bend, Out of Frequency
AWOLNATION: Sail
Beck: Loser, Sweet Sunshine, Broken Train, Devils Haircut
The Black Angels: Indigo Meadow, Don't Play With Guns, Always Maybe, Young Men Dead, Phosphene Dream
Black Mountain: Queens Will Play
Black Sabbath: Lady Evil
The Bloodhound Gang: Take the Long Way Home, The Bad Touch
Boom! Bap! Pow!: Suit
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
Charlie Murphy: Burning Times
Clannad: I See Red, Newgrange
Cobra Verde: Play With Fire
David & Steve Gordon: Shaman's Drum Dance
Donovan: Sunshine Superman, Season of the Witch
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being (original edit)
Eels: Souljacker Part 1
Elektrisk Gonner: Uknowhatiwant
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
FC Kahuna: Hayling
The Feeling: Sewn
Fluke: Absurd
Foster The People: Pumped Up Kicks
Gary Numan: Down in the Park, Cars, Bridge? What Bridge?, My Shadow In Vain, Soul Protection, My World Storm, Dream Killer, Outland, Remember I Was Vapour, Are ‘Friends' Electric?, Praying to the Aliens, My Breathing, Telekon, Petals
Godsmack: Voodoo
The Gospel Whiskey Runners: Muddy Waters
Gotye: Somebody That I Used To Know
Gypsy Soul: Who?
Hedningarna: Ukkonen, Juopolle Joutunut, Gorrlaus
The Hollies: Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)
Huldrelokkk: Kirstin, Huldrehalling
In Strict Confidence: Forbidden Fruit, Snow White, Tiefer
Kerstin Blodig & Ian Melrose: Kråka
Jessica Bates: The Hanging Tree
Jethro Tull: Overhang, Kelpie, Rare and Precious Chain, Something's on the Move, Old Ghosts, Dun Ringill
Julian Cope: Charlotte Anne
The Kills: Future Starts Slow, Nail in My Coffin, DNA, Sour Cherry
Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker, The Future
Lorde: Yellow Flicker Beat, Royals
Low with Tom and Andy: Half Light
M.I.A.: Bad Girls
Marilyn Manson: Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon, Personal Jesus, Tainted Love
Matt Corby: Breathe
Motherdrum: Stomp
Orgy: Social Enemies, Blue Monday
People in Planes: Vampire
PJ Harvey: Let England Shake, In the Dark Places, The Colour of the Earth
R.E.M.: Drive
Rob Zombie: Mars Needs Women, Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy), Living Dead Girl
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Seether: Remedy
Shriekback: Running On The Rocks, The Shining Path, Underwaterboys, Shark Walk, Over the Wire, Dust and a Shadow, This Big Hush, Nemesis, Now These Days Are Kong, The King in the Tree
Spiral Dance: Boys of Bedlam, Tarry Trousers
Steeleye Span: Blackleg Miner, Rogues in a Nation, Cam Ye O'er Frae France
Sweet Talk Radio: We All Fall Down
Tamaryn: While You're Sleeping, I'm Dreaming, Violet's in a Pool
Tempest: Raggle Taggle Gypsy, Mad Tom of Bedlam, Queen of Argyll, Nottamun Town, Black Jack Davey
Thomas Dolby: She Blinded Me With Science
Tom Petty: Mary Jane's Last Dance
Tuatha Dea: Kilts And Corsets, Morgan La Fey, Tuatha De Danaan, The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp Of A Thing (Part 1), Long Black Curl
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Wendy Rule: Let the Wind Blow, The Circle Song, Elemental Chant
Woodland: Roots, First Melt, Witch's Cross, The Dragon, Morgana Moon, Mermaid
Yoko Kanno: Lithium Flower
Zero 7: In the Waiting Line

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