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Witches Get Stuff Done
Author: Molly Harper


Chapter 1



Riley everett wished she had the internal fortitude to admire Starfall Point as it rose in the watery distance. Unfortunately, she’d thrown up everything in her body over the rail of the island’s midmorning ferry. She had no fortitude left, internal or external.

The Loyal Retriever cut through the choppy blue waters of Lake Huron with a surgical grace that should have been reassuring. Instead, Riley was anxiety-sweating through the newly purchased cargo jacket necessary to protect her from the brisk early May wind.

Brisk. Wind. In. May.

Her Floridian brain simply couldn’t comprehend those words being strung together.

Maybe it was only brisk to Riley? Maybe she was cold because she was used to the soul-melting heat of Orlando? Maybe it didn’t matter because she felt like she was going to throw up again.

Wisps from her chin-length cap of dark gold hair clung to her clammy cheeks as her stomach attempted to turn itself inside out like a possessed balloon animal. And the worst part was there was nowhere to hide. She’d dashed for the ferry’s bathrooms just after the Retriever left the dock, only to find one marked with an OUT OF ORDER sign and the other locked tight. She’d had to hang over the railing to be sick, much to the gleeful horror of the school group standing nearby.

It might have been easier if she’d been able to sit inside, away from the sight of the churning waves, but all the seats inside the ferry cabin were taken by semi-elderly tourists in some sort of discount group. It seemed early in the season to brave the chill and the wind, even if the island was considered one of the most picturesque spots in Michigan. She supposed that’s why there was a discount.

Riley was left to sit on a peeling blue bench built into the exterior of the main cabin, which seemed to magnify every pitch and roll of the boat by the power of ten. And it was very difficult not to resent the group of eight-to-ten-year-olds standing at what Riley considered to be an ill-advised distance from the railing in their bright yellow Sunnyside Day Camp windbreakers. They were whooping and screaming with every dip of the hull like they were riding some epic roller coaster headed straight to Hades. Oh, to be young and not have the taste of regurgitated breakfast burrito coating one’s mouth.

“Is she gonna do it again?” one kid asked, shoving handfuls of rainbow fruit snacks in his face. His obvious half-agonizing, half-hopeful state, made Riley think of untold Jane Austen adaptations involving evil zombie children.

“It’s another ten minutes to the island. I’ll bet she’ll go one more time, at least,” the boy’s little buddy, all ferret features and spiky auburn hair, said as he eyed Riley intently.

Were all “up north” kids so morbidly interested in public pukers, or was Riley a special case?

She had never been this nauseated in all her thirty-three years. Hell, she’d worked as a cocktail waitress on a half-derelict cruise ship during the hurricane-plagued off-season and had never been this sick. Maybe her motion sickness was lake-specific? Or could her “boat anxiety” just be regular anxiety? She was traveling to meet her heretofore unknown, long-lost elderly aunt after a lifetime without any relatives besides her parents. Riley couldn’t help but feel she was sailing into some sort of trap. Didn’t half of the women featured on true crime podcasts end up murdered because they answered messages from strangers? Hell, she was pretty sure this was how a lot of 1970s horror movies started.

Maybe she should just forget this whole thing. She could open her phone for the first time all day and email her aunt, who hadn’t responded to any of her messages in the previous few days, and tell her, “Sorry, I came down with a sudden case of ‘not wanting to die in your clearly demon-based world domination plot,’” and run back to Florida like her ass was on fire. Elderly people rarely checked their emails, right? She could get as far as Tennessee before Aunt Nora figured out Riley had ditched her.

Of course, an abrupt turnaround would mean she’d have to get back on the boat almost immediately after landing on Starfall, and Riley wasn’t sure she would survive that.

Much like her emotional state, the Retriever pitched wildly into the waves, throwing Riley’s weight against the cabin wall. Her stomach gave another watery twist. Riley groaned, clapping her hand over her mouth.

A desperate and awful pressure rippled up her throat, like some sort of digestive earthquake. With the schoolkids milling around between Riley and the nearest trash can, she had no alternative but to run to the railing again. She wrapped her arms around the rust-roughened metal, lest she get thrown headfirst into the water while she gagged. The schoolkids’ excited noises changed very quickly to a chorus of disgusted “ew!”s in stereo.

“She’s gonna barf again!” Fruit Snacks yelled.

“Nope, she’s thrown up so much that she can’t throw up anymore!” Ferret Face hooted. “My uncle Max calls it the ‘dry heaves.’ Mom says that’s why I’m not allowed to drink anything from his fridge.”

Riley’s realized Fruit Snacks was holding up his cell phone as if he was recording her. Oh, shit. She was going to end up on some sort of horrible “Best Boat Barf Fails” compilation video.

In a day filled with emotional punches to the chin, this was the final indignity.

Riley breathed deep and immediately regretted it as the smell of exhaust and dead-fish-slash-lake water filled her nostrils. Right. If she’d learned anything over the years, it was when to strategically retreat. Relinquishing her hold on the rail, Riley stumbled towards the little alcove containing the bathroom doors. She rattled the knob, which was still locked and immobile.

“Oh, come on!” she yelled, feeling her stomach lurch again. She banged her fist on the door, every impact with the sturdy metal biting her chilled skin. “There are other people out here who need the bathroom! Wrap it up!”

“Won’t do you any good,” a tall, willowy woman with a bright shock of strawberry-blond hair sighed to Riley’s left. Hunkered against the OUT OF ORDER door, the redhead was dressed in a prim dove-gray suit that made her fair skin look slightly sallow and didn’t quite look up to the task of protecting her from the cold. Riley was pretty certain there was a tinge of blue under the woman’s work-appropriate nude lip gloss. Her eyes narrowed at the closed bathroom door. “I’ve been locked out of the bathroom for most of the ride, and the situation is too damn close to desperate.” She flinched, as if she’d just heard the words coming out of her mouth. “Please, pardon my language. I’m Alice Seastairs.”

“Riley Everett,” she said, nodding to Alice, who seemed genuinely distressed by her use of a fairly minor curse word. To lower the social stakes, Riley offered, “My mom used to tell me that some people think that they’re the center of the universe. And then she would rattle on about ‘mainlander assholes’ and end up ignoring me for the rest of the day.”

Alice snorted and then blanched again, covering her mouth with a slim, elegant hand. Now that Riley had cursed at a higher level, she seemed to relax a bit. “Well, your mother sounds like an interesting person.”

“She was,” Riley nodded as she felt another prickle of cold sweat flush her cheeks. She groaned, leaning against the wall behind her. Though she wasn’t looking up at Alice, Riley could pinpoint the moment that her new acquaintance started feeling sorry for her. Riley’s mother, Ellen, had died a few months before. Riley touched on the subject so rarely that she hadn’t quite grasped the art of not dropping it on people like that.

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