At her mother's urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious magical apartment building on campus.
On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. She is torn between three men: Daniel Stern, her ex-fiancé, Jack Kovac, the enigmatic FBI agent, and Prince Lastor, the potent supernatural man living in the penthouse at the Garden of Abracadabra.
Compelled into a dangerous murder investigation, Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing battle between humanity and a demonic realm, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.
"So refreshing! This is Stephanie Plum in the world of Harry Potter."– Goodreads
"Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy. I want to read more!
This is a very entertaining novel—sort of a down-to-earth Harry Potter with a modern adult woman in the lead. Even as Abby has to deal with mundane concerns like college and running the apartment complex she works at, she is surrounded by supernatural elements and mysteries that she is more than capable of taking on. Although this book is just the first in a series, it ties up the first "episode" while still leaving some story threads for upcoming books. I'm looking forward to finding out more."– Reader Review
"I love the writing style and am hungry for more!"– Goodreads
I shouldn't but I do it, anyway. That's me, Abby Teller, a magician with a mind of her own. I used to worry about doing the right thing. Now I wonder what the right thing is.
He stands on the shoulder of the on-ramp, a string bean in his T and jeans beneath the sweltering September sun. A toothsome grin on his face, cowboy boots on his feet, and a cardboard sign in his hands.
Whoa! I pull Hi-Ho Silver over, slam on the brakes. Four days of driving since I fled Buckeye Heights leaves me yearning for talk with more than my '65 Mustang. Chat with a hunk of steel tends to be one-sided. How about a hunk in cowboy boots?
It isn't the sanest idea I've ever had in my life, picking up a hitchhiker on I-80 outside Sacramento. And me, Abby Teller, a lady alone. In all the old stories, the most notorious bloodthirsty sorcerers trick their victims into believing they're foxy rogues.
I am nobody's victim, but am I in danger?
He tears open the door, stows the sign and a backpack in the backseat, and slides into the bucket seat beside me, bringing with him the scent of male sweat and Florida Water cologne. The kind of cologne jailbirds and voodooists favor.
What is he? A magician, a monster, or a mortal?
"Thanks for stopping. I thought the highway patrol would cruise by any minute and bust my ass." He reaches over the gearshift, holds out his hand. "I'm Brand."
"Like the mark you burn on a heifer showing her who's boss."
"You a rancher?"
"Babe, I'm free range."
My, he's got an opinion of himself. I look him over. Some ass Brand has. I mean, some grin. And Paul Newman eyes, an impossible blue the color of Windex. From a distance, the tattoos on his arms told me twenties. Up close, the lines around his eyes and his mouth tell of sun-drenched days and high-life nights. Thirties, maybe?
Dangerous? Oh, yeah. He oozes the charm of a grifter, the shifty aura of a liar, the arrogance of a man who takes for granted what women do for him.
I've stopped for him, now haven't I?
Why doesn't an able-bodied man his age drive his own car? I consider the likely scenarios, none of them good, with the possible exception he's a die-hard greenie. No consumption of fossil fuels unless absolutely necessary. Double up with someone already doing the consuming. A Greyhound bus would work, but I'm free.
I get a kick out of him, anyway, macho swagger and all. That's me, a daughter of Buckeye Heights where people still trust moneylenders, horse traders, grandstanders, and the foxy rogues of the world when they shouldn't. They really, really shouldn't.
I take the hand he offers in a knuckle-crushing grip, and a jolt ripples through my fingers, through palm and wrist, and up my arm like when you touch a live wire. Electric, electrifying. Black sparks follow the jolt, glittering over my skin.
The jolt reaches my shoulder. Sparks cluster at my throat. The jolt, the sparks start pushing. Pushing in, trying to touch things inside me.
No, it's not animal magnetism.
Not the alchemy of male and female hormones.
I've never shaken hands with anyone like Brand.
He's got power. Crazy wild power. Most likely not a monster; his skin is too hot. Some stripe of magician?
And me? I wouldn't have glimpsed his power at all if I didn't possess power of my own. I am vexed.
Why should I let this stranger, this hitchhiker, push his power into me? My instinct says push back, and push back I do. I drive the jolt, the sparks from my throat, out through my shoulder, down my arm to wrist and palm, and through my fingertips, back to the source.
Back to him.
Only then do I release his hand.
Surprise flickers in his eyes, then dives beneath the surface, disappearing in the Windex depths. Oh, he's good. Much better than me at concealing his true nature from the quotidian world when he's got a mind to.
I don't try to hide my smile. He ought to know from the start he can't push me around. Or my power.
"As in 'Dear Abby'?"
"Then you're famous. Everyone in the world knows 'Dear Abby.' You've got some handshake, dear Abby. A magician's handshake. And some eyes. I love a lady with green eyes. And cool wheels."
I accept the compliment, though my eyes aren't so much green as the color of absinthe, a mingling of hazels and golds. The eyes I inherited from my mother, along with my dancer's legs and the '65 Mustang.
We share a comradely laugh, Brand and I. Fascinating, how a man in cowboy boots dangles that particular love-word inside of five minutes. A carrot, one carat, fourteen karats?
Better keep my guard up, as the teacher of "Street Smarts for Women" advised our class. If Brand turns out to be a notorious bloodthirsty sorcerer, I know just which part of the man's anatomy I'll aim the jab of my knee at.
* * *
I pull off the shoulder of the on-ramp and ease Hi-Ho Silver up to the metering light. The light flashes green and we're off, speeding westbound on I-80, merging between a FedEx truck and a VW bug the color of a candy apple.
Fields of parched olive trees sprawl from the shoulders of the road to the horizon in every direction. The sweltering sun bleaches the sky a shimmering silver.
I've pulled my russet curls into a turquoise-beaded scrunchie and pulled the ponytail through a second time. But my makeshift chignon scarcely cools me. The chain with my Eye of Horus traces a hot silver trail around my neck, the amulet smoldering in the hollow of my throat. Silver rings on every finger, silver bangles stacked on wrists, and a silver ankle bracelet burn bands of heat where metal meets flesh. Sweat slicks my skin beneath a turquoise tank top and trickles between my breasts. In denim shorts, my dancer's thighs just about melt in the leather bucket seat. Only my feet in strappy sandals aren't grilled Abby.
"Where you headed, dear Abby?"
"Same town as you. I just got accepted by the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts."
"Thanks. And I'm interviewing for a job on campus that sounds too good to be true. It's not a sure thing, not by a long shot, but if everything works out? I can pay the tuition and start my first class tomorrow. I'm all fired up."
I am more than all fired up, I am smokin'. I need that first class, need all the classes that will follow. I need guidance. I need instruction. My survival depends on learning to master my power.
So my mother told me on her deathbed, only days ago. Days ago? Try a lifetime ago. She told me other things, too, secrets I'd never known my whole life. Family secrets. Terrible secrets, shocking and strange.
"I'd love to go to Magic school, but I can't afford it."
"I can't afford not to." It's been good packing up my life. Good leaving my hometown behind. I've had no time for tears, for grieving. I glance at him, finding his sly blue eyes trained on me. "You've got some handshake yourself. A magician's handshake. If you don't mind my saying so, Brand, you've got a lot of power."
He laughs his comradely laugh. "Nah, just a touch. Not enough to leap over tall buildings or stop a speeding bullet. I've never had any schooling, not like what you're going to get. But it's true, I've had to keep secrets. Even a touch of power can be a tricky thing. Especially when you've hooked up with someone who hasn't got any."
This rings a bell. A big, big bell. "Tell me?"
"This friend is putting me up till I find a place of my own. A girlfriend once, serious shit for a while, but we just couldn't make it work. She accused me of holding something back, and she was right. I couldn't share my power with her, and she had no power of her own to share with me."
"She figured out you've got power?"
"She saw enough of me in action. It drove her nuts."
"Well. Something sure was missing between me and Daniel." I'd be lying if I didn't admit I've missed Daniel Stern since the day I broke off our engagement. I miss how he kneaded the knots out of my shoulders. I miss a whole lot more. Once I thought the heat between us would be enough to sustain a marriage. "Something I knew would always be missing. Something I didn't dare talk about. Not with him."
"The Magic, yeah."
"Then here's to Magic, dear Abby." He reaches over the gearshift for another handshake.
I shouldn't. I really, really shouldn't. But I do it, anyway. "To Magic."
His hand pulses in mine, electric, electrifying. His power beats in syncopation with the beat of my heart.
A bank of black thunderheads abruptly boils up out of the west, drenching the road with cool, fat raindrops and gracing Hi-Ho Silver with a free car wash.
I wrench my hand away. The nerve this guy has.
Then the deluge ceases, just like that. No lingering pitter-pat of raindrops, no departing grumble of thunder. The thunderheads roll away, receding into the east, and vanish just as suddenly as they'd appeared.
Once more the sweltering sun bleaches the sky a shimmering silver. Raindrops clinging to the olive trees glimmer, a million tiny diamonds among dripping leaves. Ghostly streamers of mist drift up from the fields.
My jaw just about drops to my sandals. "Was that a freak storm or did you do that?"
"You did that, dear Abby."
"No, I swear!" It's all I can do to keep my eyes on the road as I speed down the freeway at seventy-five miles an hour. "Did we do that together?"
"If we did, I'm not sure what we did."
Is he being disingenuous? Lying? Jerking me around?
Do I mind? Strangely, I don't.
"That, Brand my friend, is why I'm going back to school. Magic school."