Genre = Paranormal Women's Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
40 Ways to Make Me Sigh
The rest of this series can be read with your Kindle Unlimited subscription. The prequel is not in Kindle Unlimited, but it is for sale for $0.99.
LENGTH: 41,000 words, 182 pages (approx)
How did I get stuck with a man who can’t handle my power?
I wanted the same things out of life that all warrior witches wanted: a loving husband, a sweet child, and enough magickal work to keep me happily busy doing some good in the world. How my life turned into the current hot mess I’m dealing with is still a mystery. What I got instead was a husband who betrayed me, a child who still believes I’m a criminal, and a bogus prison sentence I’m stuck serving to save my ungrateful child’s life.
But there’s a reason my mother named me after the Aran Cliffs in Ireland. I may be short of stature, but I’m not short on my determination to survive the mess I made of my life. If I didn’t, I’d be letting down my ancestor, The Dagda of the Tuatha de Danann, and my familiar, Connlander of the Fir Bolg. Outside of my father, Goddess rest his soul, they’re the only two males in my life who haven’t stuck a knife in my back.
I’m making plans for my midlife makeover and no one will stop me.
Tales of a Midlife Witch is an exciting new paranormal women’s fiction series from USA Today Bestselling Author Donna McDonald.
Twenty years ago in the beautiful land of Ireland…
As listed in the filed report, the mugwort was in full bloom and the field on Jason Riley’s farm was indeed covered with it. Farmer Riley sold access to the crop to several local witches, which allowed them to harvest a bag whenever they had a need. Ma and her coven members were among those witches, but recently one had been attacked and robbed by pixies who had taken over the field.
Farmer Riley offered to pay the Shadow Breakers to drive the pixies away. Since he was a friend of Ma’s and always gave her a discount, I talked my handler into letting me do the pixie removal as a training exercise.
I took on a new paranormal team every year and my latest two were the oddest set I’d trained yet.
Conn raced on ahead while the three of us tramped over the farm toward the field. My two new trainees trailed reluctantly behind me. This was our farthest field trip yet and both seemed worried about this particular lesson.
My smile was wide as I basked in their dread of what I might ask them to do.
Jessing was an owl shifter. She topped six feet in her human form, wore large glasses, and was rounder than she wanted to be in the middle. I know this only because she mentioned her large size all the time. She was vicious in her shifted form. Her enormous owl had razor-sharp talons and wouldn’t think twice about eating a pixie or two for dinner.
My other trainee had begged our mutual handler to get to train with me and had taken Jessing on as a partner to get his way. Hart called himself a mage, but his magick was that of a natural-born witch.
His reasons for denying his witch roots remained a mystery. Any coven of normal witches would have berated him until he admitted the truth, but I didn’t bother. I never got hung up on semantics. As far as I was concerned, Hart could call himself anything he wanted.
Power was what it was and it didn’t care about yer gender or what ya called yerself.
Ma taught me witching as soon as I was big enough to stir a cauldron. Da taught me how to fight when I was fifteen. Both made sure I grew up confident and cocky. Becoming a mother never altered those traits in me. Fiona was a blessing and I didn’t see why I couldn’t be a warrior witch, as well as a wife and mother.
It was my Celtic God ancestor who softened my edges. Along with teaching me to use the powers I’d inherited from him, he taught me to have patience with myself and to feel empathy for others. Goddess knew, his lessons were frequently not pleasant, but they were always effective.
In the last two years, I’d tried to pay his faith in me forward with the trainees the Shadow Breakers tasked me with teaching.
I turned my head to the tall woman next to me. “Jessing, shift and fly above the field. See if ya can get us a number. It would be good to know if we’re dealing with fifty pixies or five.”
Nodding, she smoothly shifted and took to the skies with no fanfare. She never had to remove her clothes to change into her beast form. Jessing claimed it was part of her inheritance. Centuries ago her family had been turned into owls by the Druids.
Jessing’s change into her shifted form was magickal as well as physical. Having seen many sorts of shifters working with the Shadow Breakers, I didn’t consider one kind better than another. Instead, I considered it to be no different from someone having blue eyes or brown ones. Both eye colors got the job done for a person. However a person shifted from human to beast, I simply figured it was their personal business and none of mine.
My biggest magical inheritance showed up in my life shortly after my grandmother died. In the space of a few weeks, I’d learned that I was pregnant with my daughter and that I was a descendant of the Tuatha de Danann. More specifically, I discovered I was of The Dagda’s lineage, their first and most important king.
The Dagda had fought in the Great War of long ago when multiple tribes fought for the right to rule Ireland as they saw fit to do so. An ancient contract made between King Dagda of the Tuatha de Danann and King Connlander of the Fir Bolg meant all these centuries later I had inherited the imperial demon as my familiar.
I adapted to Conn being around quickly enough and to watching him change himself into whatever creature he wished. Conn showed me many things that no one else had ever bothered to show me. Under his magical tutelage, I became far more than a simple witch. I became a magickal warrior as well.
It would have worried Jack to know all the magickal things I’d mastered. Having to hide my family legacy from the man I vowed to love for the rest of my life had been a sad necessity. Given Jack’s obsessions with his own talents and his fears about mine, he hadn’t given me much choice.
But really… why risk his feelings getting hurt when my silence kept the peace between us? Getting pregnant so quickly had put enough strain on our marriage.
One early morning after Fiona was born, Conn left and was gone the whole day. When he’d returned late that evening, he brought with him a handsome giant. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Fiona was scarcely two weeks old and yet Jack had left for America that same day.
I was putting Fiona to bed by myself that night and she’d just settled down when Conn returned.
Jack and I were living in a cottage on my late Grandmother’s farm and I loved all the space. The farmer who’d taken over the rest of the land kept it pristine. There were acres and acres of woods surrounding us and they were made for exploring. That land had gone to Da when she died. My parents had told me that one day it would pass to me. This was something else I never told Jack. If he’d wanted to sell it, we would have fought the fight of all fights.
When I met The Dagda, the eight-foot-tall red-haired man had studied me for a long time before finally introducing himself as my ancestor. He said he’d come to finish my training.
From The Dagda, I learned that some of the Celtic gods could get new physical bodies and return from the Great Beyond to temporarily walk the Earth again. I learned The Dagda had done exactly that for me. When Conn told me how difficult the process was, I was humbled by the idea that coming to train me had been worth my ancestor’s sacrifice.
The reason he’d taken human form to train me was because the previous magickal Conn had served had died before having time to reveal my legacy to me. Both Ma and Da said they weren’t sure which relative it was. Conn had strangely, but flatly, refused to tell me. He said I’d learn the truth when it was time to learn it. When The Dagda did the same, I set my curiosity aside. I had no idea why everyone was lying or putting me off, but I suspected my marital status was part of their thinking.
Witching I had known all my life, but being a child of The Dagda was very mysterious. I was so eager to learn back then that I might have promised to leave Jack if it had been necessary.
Letting Jack think The Dagda was a con artist was something The Dagda asked from me. Well, that and he asked that I didn’t practice what he taught me in front of my husband.
Wanting to honor my trainer’s sole request, I joined the Shadow Breakers instead. They kept me busy with opportunities to use my skills.
And Jack was gone so often for his work that it became second nature for me to do most of it whenever he was away. When Jack was around, I brewed potions, made soap, and enjoyed playing mommy to my sweet child.
I blinked out of my thoughts of the past when an oversized owl landed at my feet and pulled me back to the task at hand.
“Were ya able to count them?” I asked the owl.
Jessing took to the skies again and turned in a circle until she shifted to land in her human form once more. “There are at least thirty of them. It looks like a rogue colony to me. I never saw their royal.”
My face turned to the mugwort field. The pixies saw me looking and dove down to hide among the blossoms. They wouldn’t willingly leave its cover. If we got close enough to the ground, they might hold us there until the mugwort put us to sleep. My work with Ma had taught me that. I was grateful Ma had taught me all she had. It was amazing how often my deep knowledge of herbs and potions came in handy.
Despite all my training, which was far more than most of my fellow magickals got, I worked at each assigned task just like my trainees did. So no, I had no idea why the pixies had stooped to stealing, but I knew to hold off blindly eradicating the lot of them until I got more information.
The Dagda had painfully taught me to have that sort of patience, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I learned it the hard way. My temper got tamed too, even though my tongue never did. When I grumbled at not being able to take revenge on those I felt deserved it, my ancestor hired many beings to capture me. Sure, he also taught me to free myself, but first I had to learn not to be so quick to judge situations.
All beings—magickal or not—did desperate things when they were feeling desperate.
The only bad thing about my life was that I often went home late to an unhappy infant and an angry husband if he was in town. It was difficult to disappoint them, but Ma said that was a normal part of being in a relationship, especially when a child came earlier than ya planned to have one. But like it or not, Jack was a father, and Ma felt like he needed to step up and act like one more than he did.
I looked up when I felt a giant wolfhound racing across the fields before stopping at my side. My lips quirked as I looked down at him. Hart and Jessing watched us closely—perhaps even a bit fearfully.
Conn had never shown his true demon self or his human form to anyone but me. And when he showed it to someone, it was because he had no other choice. Then afterward he made sure the beings forgot about seeing him. It didn’t matter if they were those we were hunting or those fighting at our side. Conn believed in keeping a low profile.
“Did ya run all yer restless energy out?”
Conn barked in reply.
“Good. There’s a rogue group of pixies in the mugwort. Do nothing yet, though. This is a training exercise, not a rabbit hunt.”
Conn looked at the field and growled.
I put an arm around his neck to keep him from acting until I finished talking. His head was level with my shoulder. I was five feet tall—no use denying it—and Conn loved being the biggest form of any animal he took.
I looked at my trainees. “So what do ya suggest we do?”
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