PART ONE/Chapter 1 (early November) - Calliope Viridis du Sang

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I had survived my Ritual of Initiation—held twenty years later than your average witch's—in a remote provincial park on the western side of Vancouver Island. I had survived my Blood Ceremony, which entailed spending an entire night encased in the Mother Tree. I had survived a fifteen-year marriage to a man who never let on he was fae, and I had survived my mother-in-law's post-divorce machinations.

I had even survived being the target of the Apple Witch's crazed and misguided pursuit of the man I loved.

I might not survive my grandfather's latest home-improvement project.

"You want to what?" I asked, shaking the kinks out of the heavy charging cord. The sight of Christoph stretching his wings had distracted me, causing me to mis-park my car by a good two feet after running my youngest son to school.

"I want to blow out this side of the house. Both floors."

My grandfather, a gyrfalcon shifter I'd known for fifteen or sixteen months, faced the entrance to the A-frame affectionately known as House and waved his arms in the air. Wind ruffled his speckled, silvery white feathers. "You need a bigger kitchen, Calli-lass, with a commercial stove, side-by-side refrigerator, pot sink. And both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms needed updating twenty years ago. Here, look at these sketches."

As Christoph crouched to gather the large roll of paper at his feet, he tucked his wings against his back. I ran my fingers over the outermost feathers, marvelling at the bossy bird man calling the shots.

He was right. Truth be told, I didn't mind that my circa-1970's house had become his passion project. I was fond of the simplicity of the structure. My mother and I moved to Salt Spring Island from Maine when I was six. My aunt had sheltered us under the steeply pitched roof, even after my mother's death.

In the four months since Christoph Courant had been part of my daily life, my blood-tied family had grown, then shrunk by one when Aunt Noémi died from complications from dementia. In that same time, my Magical community had exploded to include more than a dozen witches, a handful of druids, a sorcerer, two necromancers, hidden folk, and fae.

"You're right." I paused on the first step of the weathered wooden stairs leading up to the small rear deck and wrapped both hands around the railings. Closing my eyes, I dropped my awareness into the wood. A tiny ripple of excitement traveled through the once fluid-filled cellulose. "And House approves."

Christoph patted my back. "I can do this without altering a single beam of the original structure."

"Can you finish it before winter sets in?"

He planted his hands on his hips and squinted. "With Tanner and the other druids and the boys helping? Sure. Plus, we've got magic on our side." He waggled all ten fingers for emphasis.

"Do the guys know about your plans already?"

"No. I was waiting on your permission. This is your home, Calli-lass, yours and Harper's and Thatcher's, and—"

"And yours," I added.

"And mine," he acknowledged. "If we start this weekend, and if Tanner and the boys can help, we can have the new kitchen installed before the rains settle in."

I crossed my arms. Christoph was right. My house—our house—had become a hive of activity. Often, one or more Magicals ended up here, at House, looking for a meal, a place to sleep, companionship, or conversation. The younger Magicals on the island, my two sons included, were taking advantage of our growing resources to ask for, and receive, mentoring.

Ideally, we'd put in more sleeping areas, outdoor showers, and a chemical toilet. The amount of labor involved was daunting, to say say nothing of the cost.

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