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Night Shift Witch

CHAPTER ONE: One Step Closer to Financial Freedom…and Dead People

I shifted in the hard chair and couldn’t help but pity the poor bereaved souls who usually sat in them. I would have thought a funeral home would spring for more comfortable chairs, especially given the cost of services.

The man sitting across from me frowned and said, “I’ve been meaning to get new chairs.”

I stopped fidgeting and met the gaze of the much too young funeral director. He was almost cute—in a red-headed, quiet, laid-back kind of way. Not my usual dark and brooding type. Not my type at all.

It was hard for me to look people in the eye these days, but I sucked it up and made myself. I wanted this job, and only sketchy people avoided eye contact. “That’s probably a good idea. So, about those hours, would that work for you?”

He leaned forward and made a note on the legal pad in front of him. “Like the ad said, any time between seven p.m. and seven a.m. Seven to midnight isn’t a problem. So,” He looked up from his scribbling, and his blue eyes drilled into mine. “When can you start?”

My breath caught. I saw something…something that made my heart clench in my chest. I blinked, breaking the connection, unwilling to see some secret truth buried deep inside the stranger sitting across from me. Mastering magical sight was turning out to be tricky. Since I’d begun studying it, I’d had a few accidental, uncomfortable moments, but this was the worst so far. I had to figure out how to turn it all the way off. That or never look anyone in the eye again. I didn’t want to know the hidden truths of every passing stranger.

Sometimes this witch gig was a serious bummer.

I evened out my breathing, and replied, “Tonight?”

Inside, I did a little mental fist-pump. My died-black hair, pale skin, and dark clothes hadn’t nixed my chances after all. A little surprising out in the boonies, so far south of Austin. Or maybe my not-quite-Goth look did bother him, and there just weren’t that many people willing to work for minimum wage and handle dead bodies. I needed the cash and the flexible hours, so I wasn’t about to ask awkward questions—like, about dress codes and such—and make the guy change his mind.

“I’ll be doing your orientation and training over the next week, so let’s start from seven to ten. If everything goes well this week, I’ll get you a key and you can lock up at night when you’re done.” He rose to his feet and extended his hand. “Welcome to Kawolski Funeral Home, Stephanie.”

My skin itched with the thought of skin to skin contact, but if I was going to work with unenhanced humans I was going to have to get used to some contact—and the name. I didn’t go by Stephanie any more, but Star didn’t seem like a name that would win over many employers so I’d put my birth name on all my applications.

I swallowed a sigh and stuck my hand out. I really should have worn gloves.

A brief look of amusement passed over his face as he shook my hand. His hand enveloped mine entirely—he was a big guy. He briskly shook my hand and released it.

And, surprisingly, I didn’t get anything off of him: no emotions, no vibes, no energy. I also didn’t get that creepy sensation of having my personal bubble invaded. Weird.

Could this guy actually be good old fashioned nice? The genuine, bland variety that meant he wasn’t picturing me naked or lying to me or trying to take advantage of me. Was it possible that he was basically feeling and thinking nothing bad? Nothing that leaked out through skin-to-skin contact and made me feel like I’ve touched something dark and slimy? Weird times three.

“I’m looking forward to working here, Mr. Kawolski.” And I was a little annoyed that I meant it. Dead people didn’t creep me out, and I was in need of a little cash, but mostly I liked the vibe of the place and the guy. Kawolski did deal with grief-stricken people all day long. Maybe he was as nice as he appeared.

“Call me Stan, please. You can save the formalities for the clients.” He hesitated briefly, then added, “Not that you’ll be interacting with the clients.”

Aha. I knew he couldn’t be that perfect. I smiled innocently at him. “Oh, no. You wouldn’t want the clients to meet the night shift.”

His lips twitched. “If you don’t mind wearing dark slacks and a white button-down shirt, I’d be happy to have you assist with late services. We can always use the help.” After delivering that zinger, he walked around his desk and motioned to the office door.

Not only had he called my bluff, the guy didn’t leak an ounce of deception. The invitation was genuine. My lip ring, died-black hair, and pale skin were apparently welcome, and not just in the back with the cold corpses.

I walked to the door, confused. No one was that cool. Especially not someone wearing a dark grey suit and sporting a practically military haircut.

He escorted me through the back to a service exit. “I’ll give you a call if I have any questions about your paperwork, otherwise I’ll see you tomorrow night at seven.”

I nodded, since I didn’t know what else to say, and headed toward my old civic.

Time to head to Camille’s for a debrief and a glass of wine or three. The interview—the evening as a whole—had been odd. And since I’d moved out of my ex’s place, I’d been living with my mom. She was the last person I could talk to, especially about witch business. She didn’t even know magic was real, let alone that her only daughter was a witch.

Mom thought the Society for the Study of Paranormal and Occult Phenomena was a ghost hunters club. I could hardly tell her they were actually the governing body for the local paranormal crowd, not unless I wanted them to slice those memories out of her brain. The Society wasn’t exactly modern in its view of civil liberties.

I rubbed my forehead, hoping to stave off my looming headache. Slicing and dicing, even of the magical variety, shouldn’t be anywhere near my mom’s mind. The woman was annoying, but she didn’t deserve that.

Speaking of annoying, she was probably going to freak when I told about this part-time gig.

I shook my head as I navigated the long drive of the funeral home. Mom was hopeless. Camille kept telling me to give her a break, but she didn’t have to live with the woman.

Thank goodness this job put me just a few weeks away from my own apartment. Mom would be out of my hair, and I’d be far enough away that I might be able to avoid exposing her to magic and any possible slice-and-dice consequences.

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